Fergie still has faith in under fire Foster
Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Ben Foster as England's number one goalkeeper - and promptly axed him from his own team to face Bolton today, in favour of Edwin van der Sar.
Foster has endured mixed fortunes since stepping in for Van der Sar when the veteran Dutchman broke two fingers during a pre-season encounter with Bayern Munich.
There have been times when the 26-year-old has excelled, notably at Wigan and Stoke, when excellent saves at crucial times provided United with the platform for victory.
However, Foster's mistakes come to mind more readily. There were two against Manchester City and another a fortnight ago when Kenwyne Jones shrugged him aside to score a goal that would have given Sunderland victory had it not been for Patrice Evra's deflected injury-time leveller.
Foster's most recent experience is a better one, keeping a clean sheet for England on Wednesday as he collected his third cap in the win over Belarus.
In confirming it will be Foster's last high-profile game for a while, Ferguson insists his faith in the former Watford man is undiminished.
“I still feel he is the best English goalkeeper around,” said the United chief.
“He has been outstanding in a lot of things. The save he made on Wednesday was typical of his performance level with us too. They are a demonstration of the guy's ability.
“But he still has not had a lot of game time and experience. His injuries have curtailed the progress he was making. He is only going to get better, though, and there is no question he will be a fantastic goalkeeper.”
He is evidently not fantastic enough yet, though, for Ferguson to take even the merest second to consider whether fit-again Van der Sar should make an instant comeback. After a reserve team outing at Everton last week confirmed his well-being, Van der Sar always felt confident of being recalled for the start of a week that also includes a Champions League trip to CSKA Moscow and the annual blockbuster with Liverpool at Anfield.
“Edwin is fit and fine and he will play,” said Ferguson.
“He has got the experience. It is fair to say he and Peter Schmeichel have been the best goalkeepers in this club's history.
“With that calming influence he has on anyone around about him, getting him back is important — and with games against CSKA Moscow and Liverpool coming up, he couldn't be coming back at a better time.”
With Van der Sar casting doubt on a widely expressed view this will be his last to- flight season, Ferguson may have a little more time to decide whether Foster can be a reliable first-choice goalkeeper for the Red Devils. At the moment, he must wait to see whether he is called upon for the Carling Cup trip to Barnsley on October 27, when Tomasz Kuszczak is also desperate to play.
It is Van der Sar who will face the aerial barrage Bolton will present to a United side definitely lacking Wayne Rooney and possibly also Darren Fletcher and Dimitar Berbatov, whose partner has just given birth to the couple's child in Bulgaria.