It is ten years since Edwin van der Sar won the UEFA Champions League as a young goalkeeper with AFC Ajax. Now at Manchester United FC, the veteran Dutch international is intent on tasting that level of success again.
Van der Sar signed from Fulham FC this summer, and only eight games into his Old Trafford career he is already exerting an influence over the side like United legend Peter Schmeichel. uefa.com caught up with Van der Sar at United's Carrington training ground.
uefa.com: How does it feel to be playing Champions League football again?
Edwin van der Sar: Good. I played my last match four years ago [with Juventus FC].
To be back in the Champions League with a big club like United, that’s what it's all about.
uefa.com: You’ve played eight games for United and let in one goal. How happy are you with how things are going?
Van der Sar: You couldn’t ask for a much better start. I’ve only conceded one goal, but we only scored once in that game [against Manchester City FC] and as a goalkeeper you always think you could do better. Things are going fine. I feel very appreciated.
uefa.com: An excellent save earned United a point against Villarreal CF on Matchday 1, but do you see yourself as more than just a shot-stopper?
Van der Sar: It’s always been my thing to get involved in the game, not only to make saves. Give me a back pass if you’re under pressure, I can open the play to the other side or try to see solutions in midfield. If that's not possible, I'll play the long ball, but always try and keep possession. As along as you have possession the other team cannot score.
uefa.com: You’re not afraid to let the United back four know if they do something you don’t like…
Van der Sar: That's part of it. You don’t have to do it every two minutes, but if something happens it’s good just to wake them up.
uefa.com: Which United player has impressed you most since your arrival?
Van der Sar: I like Rio [Ferdinand]. He’s quick, good in the air, and can play with the ball at his feet. Overall he's a good defender. Of course I knew that already but when you work with someone really close, it's easier to judge. It's important the whole back four get on, but it's changed a little bit now that [Gary] Neville and [Gabriel] Heinze are out [injured]. You need to have an understanding with your defenders, on the pitch and off it.
uefa.com: What is like following in the footsteps of Schmeichel?
Van der Sar: Everything he achieved here is incredible. Hopefully I can achieve one or two of the things he did here, like a championship or an FA Cup. Hopefully when my time here is up and they make a list of the best goalkeepers, Schmeichel will be No1, but Van der Sar will be second or third. That would be all right for me.
uefa.com: Would you like to return to Ajax one day?
Van der Sar: When I left Ajax I said I'd like to come back, but I don't know when. It's been six years now and I've got another two years on my contract. I'm 34 so it's getting less likely, but I'm still hoping to face them, maybe after the group phase. I would like to return to Amsterdam to play against them.
uefa.com: What is your most powerful memory of winning the Champions League?
Van der Sar: Overwhelming. We scored quite late in the game, the 86th minute I believe, and you start thinking: "Bloody hell, we can win the Champions League." And then you have to focus on those last five minutes. When the referee blew his whistle it was like all the things you were dreaming about since you were a kid, winning a prize like that, actually happening. It's overwhelming. We'd already beaten [AC] Milan twice [before the final], but you are still talking about Milan. Ajax, we were a young team and not really regarded as one of the best in Europe. So to beat Milan for a third time and go on and win it was great.
uefa.com: It feels like a long time ago…
Van der Sar: Yes it goes very fast. The next year, we reached the final again. OK we lost to Juventus but we still had the feeling we would be there again because we were so strong at that period. Then five years go by, now it's ten. It makes you more aware that time is passing. I'm 34 and though you still feel young, that's maybe not the case. To win [the Champions League] once is nice, but to win it twice would be a much bigger thing.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.