As befitting a legend, Edwin van der Sar was the star at a legendary press conference after his farewell match. In the fully packed press room of the Amsterdam ArenA, Van der Sar, with Louis van Gaal, Frank de Boer, Sir Alex Ferguson and Guus Hiddink, was surrounded by great coaches.
The coaches looked back respectfully on Van der Sar’s evening, and career. There has seldom been this much football history gathered behind the press table in the ArenA. “I think everyone had a good time tonight”, Frank de Boer opened, looking back on a special evening for the retiring goalie. “I had goose bumps at some points. I’m thrilled that I was part of the Ajax team from 1995, and of this evening for Van der Sar.”
The golden Ajax year of 1995 was, of course, Louis van Gaal’s year. The illustrious trainer coached the same group of Ajax players with whom he had won the Europa Cup in the mid nineties one more time in the ArenA. “What we’ve seen tonight says a lot about Edwin van der Sar’s standing”, explained Van Gaal to the room of reporters. “Not many players can command this. I’m proud that I’m still able to come to Ajax. It says a lot when you’re received this way. And the way Edwin has been received is exactly what he deserves.”
After Van Gaal, it was Sir Alex Ferguson who worked the longest with the Dutch team’s record holding international. The legendary Scotsman expressed regret in the Arena at his ‘mistake’. “In 1999, I made the mistake of not bringing in Van der Sar immediately to replace Peter Schmeichel”, said Manchester United’s manager in retrospect. ‘Sar’ traded Ajax for Juventus. “I can forgive myself. I hope Edwin can, too.” Ferguson made up for his mistake six years ago, when he finally did bring the tall Dutchman to Manchester. United took the goalie over from Fulham. Ferguson remains happy with the transfer, until Van der Sar’s last day as a Red Devil. “Few are as accurate as Edwin”, complimented Ferguson. “Don’t forget how hard it is to train and perform at a top level on a daily basis. Edwin, thank you.”
To close, Hiddink also looked back fondly as well. The world citizen from the “Achterhoek” of Holland did this as former national team coach, when he worked with Van der Sar between ’95 and ’98. To the pleasure of both the coach, and the keeper. “Compared to the other coaches, I’ve worked with Van der Sar for a relatively short time, and not been through as much with him”, said Hiddink. “But I did get to know Edwin during that period, as a fantastic person. Someone who has stayed fantastic, and pure, throughout his career. He dared to take on good and bad issues with the team. That’s important for a coach. Ed, I’ve had a great time with you, too.”