Edwin van der Sar's top team-mates XI
Edwin van der Sar's distinguished, marathon career took in more than 900 senior games for Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, Manchester United and the Netherlands national team, during which he scooped up armfuls of silverware and set numerous records, establishing himself as one of the great goalkeepers of the modern age.
So between his competitive debut for Ajax in April 1991 and his final senior game – in our Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley in May 2011 – who are the players Edwin appeared on the same pitch with the most times?
Continuing our 'Top Team-mates' series, we present an XI of stars that our ex-stopper played the most games alongside...
Edwin's all-time XI Gallery
Take a look at our former goalkeeper's team, based on which players he appeared with most often in his career...
Tomasz Kuszczak (149 games in the same squad as van der Sar)
While the figures for the rest of the players in this XI refer to matches in which they and Edwin were on the same pitch at the same time, that unsurprisingly never happened with another goalkeeper during the Dutchman's career.
So instead we've gone for the glovesman who was named in the match squad with Edwin the most, and it is his regular back-up stopper at United, Tomasz Kuszczak. There were a handful of occasions when the capable Polish understudy and van der Sar played in the same fixture, but never, of course, at the same time.
John O'Shea (186), Rio Ferdinand (207), Danny Blind (247), Frank de Boer (344)
With Ajax being the club van der Sar played the longest and most times for, and given that he earned a whopping 130 international caps for the Netherlands, there's a distinct Dutch feel to Edwin's team-mates XI, which shows itself with two out of his back four being colleagues at both Ajax and for Holland.
The versatile Frank de Boer slots in at left-back (though it was at centre-back that he later established himself) and holds the distinction of being the player who most frequently played alongside Edwin, while Danny Blind, father of ex-Red Daley, is in the middle.
He is partnered by Rio Ferdinand, who featured in a considerable 79% of the matches that van der Sar played for the Reds, as part of a formidable defence that helped Edwin set a world record for the most consecutive minutes played by a keeper in league football without conceding a goal (1,311 minutes).
Making up the back four is possibly a surprise package in John O'Shea, whose versatility earns him the right-back berth ahead of Dutchman Michael Reiziger, a specialist in that position but a fair way behind big John with 152 matches alongside van der Sar.
Ronald de Boer (286), Paul Scholes (175), Edgar Davids (240), Marc Overmars (223)
Van der Sar's Dutch connections dominate the midfield, but there is room for some Reds royalty as well. On the right of midfield, Ronald de Boer joins his twin Frank in the side, and in fact is next in line after his brother when it comes to number of matches played alongside Edwin overall.
On the other flank is speedy winger Marc Overmars, who United fans will remember best as part of the Arsenal side that fought so fiercely against United during the latter half of the 1990s. The third part of the Dutch midfield contingent, in the centre, is Edgar 'the Pitbull' Davids.
All three of these players, plus the two Dutch defenders mentioned already, were part of the superb young Ajax team of the mid-1990s under Louis van Gaal, and all started alongside Edwin in the famous 1995 Champions League final victory over AC Milan.
The fourth cog in the midfield wheel is our own Paul Scholes (imagine how well he and Davids would have complemented each other in the middle!) who of course played in a winning Champions League final of his own with van der Sar, against Chelsea in Moscow in 2008.
Jari Litmanen (212), Wayne Rooney (221)
Up front in our nominal 4-4-2 system we have quality galore. Finland's Jari Litmanen was only team-mates with van der Sar at Ajax but was an integral part of that team, so still racked up enough mutual appearances to make the XI, despite not having international caps to boost his total like the rest of the Ajax representatives.
Litmanen was a brilliant, creative no.10 and would operate as the perfect second striker behind Wayne Rooney, if we imagine Rooney in the out-and-out striker role he played during his most prolific goalscoring seasons for the Reds.
Litmanen was also a starter for Ajax against Milan in 1995, while Wayne Rooney of course played in Moscow in 2008, meaning that, amazingly, nine of Edwin's 10 outfield team-mates in this XI were players he won the Champions League playing alongside, in finals 13 years apart (and O'Shea almost makes it a clean sweep, but for the fact he didn't come off the bench in Moscow).
That's testament to both Edwin's exceptional longevity and his outstanding success as a player.
VAN DER SAR'S FULL XI:
Kuszczak; O'Shea, Ferdinand, Blind, F.de Boer; R.de Boer, Scholes, Davids, Overmars; Litmanen, Rooney.
ON THE BENCH
There were a number of stellar names Edwin played alongside who couldn't make the starting XI due to being edged out by those in a similar position who played more often with him, but they would make a phenomenal pool from which to select a bench.
Ryan Giggs, for example, played 194 times alongside van der Sar, which is more times than Paul Scholes but, unlike Scholesy, doesn't make the first team due to the fact that Marc Overmars, in his position on the left, played more.
Patrice Evra drew the short straw in the fact that the player who played with Edwin more than anyone, Frank De Boer, was fielded here in Evra's spot, left-back, to accommodate Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the defence. Nemanja Vidic is top-class centre-back cover, with 180 mutual appearances with Edwin, while there's a choice of midfield back-up in the shape of Darren Fletcher (173) and Michael Carrick (168).
Ace striker Patrick Kluivert (scorer of the winner in that 1995 Champions League final) is a strong bench option with 168 appearances with Edwin, and there's a certain player named Cristiano Ronaldo who posted a total of 167 – now he could be worth throwing on at some point. Michael Reiziger (yet another winner in '95 with Ajax) was unlucky not to make it in as a right-back, but surely gets the nod as understudy there.
And though you mightn't even need a spare goalie with a squad as amazing as this, next in line would be Michelangelo Rampulla, the Italian stopper who was the bench back-up to van der Sar at Juventus on 54 occasions.
Stats courtesy of www.transfermarkt.com.
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