Ferguson salutes Van Der Sar
Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping the old and the new can combine to produce another successful Manchester United title challenge.
For so much of the season, United have appeared below their best and it was the same again on Saturday as they laboured for over an hour against Burnley.
But eventually, Dimitar Berbatov made the breakthrough, setting the Red Devils on their way to a 3-0 win over the Clarets that was rounded off by a goal from new-boy Mame Biram Diouf on his home debut.
While Ferguson was delighted his side's dominance was finally rewarded, Wayne Rooney slotting home a 16th goal of the season in the process, he was equally pleased with the clean sheet that marked Edwin van der Sar's return to action.
The 39-year-old has not enjoyed the best of campaigns.
He broke two fingers during a pre-season game in Munich, injured his knee against Everton in November and then had to endure the horror of wife Annemarie suffering a stroke in their native Holland just before Christmas.
But, fit and available after a week's warm-weather training in Qatar, Ferguson had no hesitation in drafting Van der Sar straight back in for only his eighth appearance of the season.
"Edwin was magnificent," he said.
"He was steady, his decision-making was great and so was his use of the ball.
"Tomasz Kuszczak has done really well for us over the last few weeks and it is no slight on him to say that Edwin made a difference.
"He is 39 and has 139 caps, two European Cup winners medals and been in four European finals.
"You could go on and on about his experience and it shows."
Before his latest absence, Van der Sar was mulling over whether to sign another year's extension and also an offer to return to international combat at this summer's World Cup in South Africa.
Such decisions have been put on hold given the situation with Annemarie, although the mere fact Van der Sar feels able to resume his own career is a positive sign.
"It has been hard of course but you have to get going," he said.
"My wife is back at home in Holland but hopefully soon everything will come back together and she will be over here again.
"I am not sure whether I was feeling my age or whether it was the two months away but I was a little nervous before the game.
"It was important to win because we need to stay close to the leaders. Hopefully now we can go from strength to strength."
If Van der Sar's presence will bring a defensive stability that can only be enhanced by the imminent return of Rio Ferdinand, possibly for next Saturday's rearranged game against Hull, Ferguson has a dilemma in attack.
Replacing Rooney with 20 minutes left was an obvious acknowledgement of Tuesday's crunch Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Eastlands.
The departure of Berbatov at the same time was recognition the Bulgarian was feeling more discomfort from a knee injury that he so far has rejected advice that it requires an exploratory operation.
It is becoming increasing likely that option will have to be taken, which would severely weaken United's attacking strength, particularly as Ferguson does not view a partnership between Rooney and Michael Owen as being viable.
Given the financial tumult of recent days, supporters will be keenly interested to discover whether Ferguson tries to bring in reinforcements.
However, Diouf did make a positive impression, even if the Senegal star, who was signed last summer but remained on loan at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's old club Molde, was not quite as explosive as the currently injured Federico Macheda was last term.
"We are quite excited about him," said Ferguson.
"The boy has great spring. He is quick, good in the air and looked to run behind their defence all the time.
"He has a lot of good attributes we can use."
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