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28 Jan 2011

Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar will retire from football at the end of this season.

The 40-year-old former Netherlands international moved to Old Trafford from Fulham in 2005.

Van der Sar has made 245 appearances for the Red Devils and helped them to win three Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League.

"It is now time to pay attention to my family," he told the website of his management agency.

Van der Sar admitted he had been contemplating quitting the game since his wife, Annemarie, collapsed with a brain haemorrhage in December 2009.

"I cannot really identify a time when it [the decision] happened," said the former Ajax and Juventus player. "Let's just say that it was playing on my mind from the moment Annemarie had her stroke.

"She has fought back from it. We decided on another year in England and thus to stay at Manchester United.

"But, once engaged in the season, the thought of saying goodbye started to gnaw a bit more emphatically."

Van der Sar admitted it had been a difficult decision to make, but ultimately the correct one.

"One minute you're out. The next, you question it again," he added on www.sport-promotion.nl. "I thought about stopping, maybe a year ago.

"It is a difficult process. After a defeat, I thought differently than after playing a few good games in a row.

"My age played no role. I am 40 years old but I still feel fit.

"And then the decision came suddenly. Do not ask me how or why, but suddenly you know. That was sufficient.

"The time has come to devote greater attention to my family - although they have never complained. Everyone in the family has indeed always had to focus on me, but we have also had a lot in return."

United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele commented that Van der Sar will go down alongside Peter Schmeichel as one of the club's greats following his decisive penalty save from Nicolas Anelka in the Champions League shootout against Chelsea in 2008.

"He has been a fantastic servant," Steele told BBC Radio Manchester. "I was very lucky. I worked alongside Peter Schmeichel at Villa and I worked with Edwin for two and a half years.

"That penalty save in Moscow has elevated Edwin alongside Peter."

The 2008 Champions League crown is one of six major club trophies Van der Sar has won during his time with United.

He also won a hat-trick of back-to-back Premier League titles with the club between 2007 and 2009, the 2006 League Cup and the 2008 Fifa Club World Cup.

During the 2009/10 season, he set a new Premier League record by going 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal.

He has twice been named Europe's best goalkeeper by Uefa, has made the Premier League team of the year on two occasions and was named in the team of the tournament for Euro 2008.

He began his career with Ajax in his native Netherlands and enjoyed nearly a decade of success, winning four Eredivisie titles and three Dutch cups in addition to winning the Uefa Cup in 1992 and the Champions League in 1995.

He then spent two years at Italian club Juventus before moving to Fulham in 2001, and then to United four years later.

Van der Sar called time on his international career after Euro 2008 before returning briefly to help out Oranje coach Bert van Marwijk in two 2010 World Cup qualifiers a few months later, before retiring for good with a Dutch record 130 caps to his name.

United's Polish keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who has been at the club since 2007, recently declared his desire to succeed Van der Sar as the club's number one.

However, United have been linked to several keepers and the club signed Denmark international Anders Lindegaard from Norwegian club Aalesund in November last year while Ben Amos, 20, went on loan to Oldham until the end of the season.

Commenting on Amos, Steele said: "The manager thinks a lot of him. But he is still young and goalkeepers do develop later.

"Anders Lindegaard has been brought in to have five months working under Van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak has done admirably every time he's come in for us. But we're naturally looking at potential suitors ready for the summer.

"Come the end of the season, the whole thing will be re-assessed by the management. We either do it internally, and we have looked at the best targets, and we have a nice one, two and three."


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