Lindegaard eyes top spot
Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard hopes the form he has shown whilst on pre-season tour in the USA has given Sir Alex Ferguson a selection headache ahead of the club's Premier League title defence.
An impressive 45-minute display against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday was the latest noteworthy performance by the 27-year-old, whose best save denied David Beckham a goal against his former club, and further fuelled speculation that it could be Lindegaard, and not £18.9 million new boy, David de Gea, who will be between the posts in United's first game of the season on August 14.
One week before that, United face Manchester City in the Community Shield and Ferguson stated earlier this week that de Gea will start at Wembley. However, Lindegaard does not believe that selection automatically places the Spaniard as the manager's first-choice. And with the competition set to continue, he is pleased with the form he has shown to date.
Lindegaard told ESPNsoccernet: "I think it's been very good, I'm satisfied. I said before the season that it was going to be very important how the goalkeepers perform because Edwin (van der Sar) has retired. I'm very satisfied with my own performances and, if I had the chance to do anything differently, I'm not sure I would."
Signed last November to compete with Tomas Kuszczak for the back-up position behind van der Sar, Lindegaard played just twice - in FA Cup ties against Southampton and Crawley – in his first six-months at Old Trafford. However, though his appearances were limited, Lindegaard says he is a better goalkeeper now than when he joined.
In addition to acknowledging the help given to him by the veteran Dutchman, Lindegaard credits United's goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele, for assisting in his development. When asked for specific areas on which he has worked, he pinpointed two things.
"Positioning in general, how to position yourself. When to be aggressive, when to stay back. In general, I think I have improved in almost every aspect of the game. I've learned a lot of things. You have to increase your level and I think I have done that."
At 6' 4" and with an imposing build, Lindegaard has a commanding penalty area presence. Furthermore, he is a naturally vocal goalkeeper who has the added benefit of being able to communicate with his teammates in English, an additional advantage he has over de Gea, whose grasp of the language is not as advanced.
Eventually, though, de Gea is expected to claim the starting job as his own, but the prospect is not one which phases Lindegaard, who knew when he arrived at the club that more competition would arrive in the close season.
"It was always going to happen. The question was, who would the club buy? It was in the cards from day one when I signed for United that, when Edwin retired, they would bring in a big name. I was told that."
Since De Gea linked up with United in Seattle almost three weeks ago, Lindegaard has been impressed with what he has seen from the Spain Under-21 international.
"He is what you can expect from a 'keeper with that price mark. He is top-class, young but very, very talented. He seems to be a great guy as well. I haven't spoken a lot to him because he doesn't speak a lot of English but he seems to be a positive, open-minded young guy and I enjoy spending time with him on the training field."
With the competition for playing time wide open, it might be thought that tension would be high between United's goalkeepers. Not so, says Lindegaard, who insists that he, De Gea and Ben Amos are thriving under the tutelage of Steele.
"There is competition for all the spots at Manchester United and it sharpens everyone to give 100%. It doesn't really affect us on the training field. We have a great atmosphere, we have a great coach that really understands how to keep that atmosphere and respect all of the goalkeepers. He deserves a lot of credit for keeping the spirit high."
Whether it is Lindegaard or de Gea who starts for the champions, United's goalkeeper at the Hawthorns will be making his Premier League debut. Given the difficulty Ferguson had in finding a reliable replacement for Peter Schmeichel – ten men had varying degrees of success between his departure in 1999 and van der Sar's arrival in 2005 – fans will hope for a smoother transition. It is a hope which is no doubt shared by the Dane's fellow countryman as he continues to ply his trade in "the world's biggest club and the world's hardest league".