I hope this letter finds you in the best of spirits. And why shouldn’t it? You are back where you belong, doing what you do best in front of the people who love you more than probably, your own countrymen. After a lengthy, arduous and at times, pretty darn frustrating summer window, thanks to the whims of fate or whatever, you continue to don the Manchester United jersey.
To be honest, those of us who had seen Edwin van Der Sar under the posts for United, weren’t at all sure as to how we were ever going to replace the Dutchman after he announced his retirement in 2011. In the summer of that year, Sir Alex Ferguson bought a thin, oddly bearded Spanish goalkeeper for a British record transfer fee of 17.8 million pounds from Atletico Madrid. While most of us had blind faith in the Gaffer and his ability to spot young talent, no one was ever really convinced if this kid could make it. Although Fergie did confirm that he had been tracking you ever since the U-17 Tournament in Spain 3 years ago, it was quite hard to believe that a frail looking 20 year old could ever fill the boots vacated by the big and beloved Dutch goalie. It had taken us years to find the perfect replacement for Peter Schmeichel, and many thought that there was no way you could last in a league of this stature and a club this demanding.
And initially, we were proved right. You made regular mistakes in matches – You couldn’t boss your own 6-yard box and your defective eyesight prevented you from coming out and collecting balls put into the centre. However, to your credit, you had excellent reflexes which made you a very good shot stopper, but then again, a Manchester United goalkeeper has to be a lot more than just someone with reflexes to be proud about. A lot of crucial goals were conceded that season owing to your inconsistency, which was exasperating at times.
However, that is not to say that we were always disappointed with you, David. One particular save from that season comes to my mind, when I recall your early days with us. We were away to Chelsea, and we had just come back from 3-1 down to level 3-3. Juan Mata had got a free kick from a very dangerous position, and he had struck it sweetly. You flew David, believe me, you literally flew that day to fist the ball which was heading straight into the top corner. You saved the game for us that day, and showed the world your class even though you were under extreme pressure. We started realizing that this guy has the potential, and we only need to keep our faith alive.
And you justified that faith. Season after season, you grew, not just physically but also mentally. And in the last season, you were simply sensational: Your ball distribution was second to none, the eye surgery that corrected your vision helped you to gather crosses better, and you became equally adept at using both your hands and feet to keep the ball out from the goal. We might have won the home game vs Liverpool 3-0 in December last year, but if it wasn’t for you, we might as well have lost the game. A leaky defense ensured that you were always kept on your toes, but not for once, did you let us down. Thanks to your heroics, we could ensure a Champions League berth, last season.
But then came the call, the moment every United fan dreads, the moment when we have to see one of our players, trained and developed on the lush green fields of Carrington, leaving for Real Madrid, the Spanish giants for an obscene amount of money. From Beckham to Van Nistelrooy to Ronaldo, we all knew what was going to happen eventually. Fiorentino Perez had come calling, and he would surely lure you into his circus of heaving paying soccer by offering a ridiculously high salary, a bungalow and a number of other stuff that can pull anybody out of anywhere, and also, because you were always under pressure from your girlfriend Edurne to return to Madrid, we were certain you would.
But it didn’t quite turn out that way. I don’t know who exactly screwed up the deal, but your transfer documents reached FIFA’s main server after the transfer window shut down, which meant you were still a Red Devil. If this isn’t a sign from above, David, then what is and what can be? I do not know what alchemy brought you to Old Trafford or managed to keep you there, but I know for a fact that I am glad you are still here. Sure, Manchester cannot match Madrid’s nightlife, or make you not miss the Spanish sun, but what this club and it’s fans can give you is a sense of identity and an unmatched sense of belonging. This club worships it’s greatest players, our fans still chant about George Best and Cantona, because we aren’t a fickle, solely result-driven fan base like a few others. We don’t boo our legends , don’t egg the cars of our best players after a bad game, and we certainly do not ask our manager to resign after every loss. I think maybe, you too sense something like that, which is why you signed the new 5 year contract with us. Sure, Louis van Gaal should have offered you the contract earlier, but you can’t really blame a commander to test his troops before sending them into war, can you? You have always shown a very professional attitude towards the club and us, and your levels have remained the same this season, despite the off field debacles and distractions. And boy, are we glad for that, because let me tell you frankly, most of us had our hearts in our mouth whenever we saw Sergio Romero under the crossbar this season.
I hope you can grasp my point here, David. When footballers bid adieu to their careers, I think what they prefer more than most is to hear fans singing their names, older fans telling tales of their greatness to the younger lot, and above all, be satisfied that they served an institution and a game which is bigger than the players themselves. No amount of money can ever bring that satisfaction, of that I am sure. So please stay David, please stay beyond your contract, look beyond the money, love this wonderful club and it’s ideals, and above all, continue performing as brilliantly as you always have and help us become a force to reckon with, again.
So long, amigo.
A Red Manc.