Sixteen months after walking into retirement with Paul Scholes following
But as the 41 year-old outlines his training regime for the New York Marathon,
which he is due to run for the second time in November, the double
“I did a 20k run on Thursday and 14k on Saturday morning,” Van der Sar said. “I woke up early, it was a nice day, so I went out. I live right by the sea, so I ran through the dunes, on to the next village, stopped to pick up an English newspaper and some fresh bagels from the bakery and we had breakfast at 10 o’clock.
“It’s fantastic. Just the feeling of the open air; no pressure, no music, just the running. Just you and your mind.”
Van der Sar’s readiness to put his body and mind through the torment of a 26-mile run through Manhattan derives from his determination to raise awareness of brain damage and help fund improved treatment for sufferers.
Having seen his wife, Annemarie, struck by a brain haemorrhage three years ago, Van der Sar has first-hand experience of the issues facing those similarly afflicted.
The Edwin van der Sar Foundation, which he now fronts with Annemarie, who has since returned to health, aims to help sufferers in both England and Holland.
“It happened to Annemarie just before Christmas 2009, here in Holland,” Van der Sar recalls. “I was here at the time because I was injured and had come back for treatment. The only thing you think of is the recovery and how can we make it happen.
“United were great, they let me stay here with Annemarie, but I never really thought about retiring there and then because, fairly quickly, you could see the improvement.
"When she started her rehabilitation, I knew that United was my work and that the children had to go back to school. We wanted normality for them, so my parents went back to Manchester with me to take the care of the kids [Joe and Lynn] and Annemarie’s father stayed in our house to help from that side.
“There were obviously things I could do, but a lot of it she had to do herself. We had great care in Holland and England, when Annemarie returned to Manchester, but through the foundation, we want to make treatment accessible for less fortunate people than ourselves.
“We are not saying that we know everything because we don’t. People go to university for eight years to get the knowledge we don’t have, but we just want to get the word out.
“We want to help by maybe creating more training for the physios and offering them an incentive to do extra study to enable them to help people with brain injuries better.
“Running the marathon is a chance to raise funds and awareness. Hopefully I can go under four hours this year [he finished in 4hr 19 min last November] and make people more aware of the foundation.
"Doors maybe open a little easier with me coming in and it’s great to help get more awareness and the extra help to the patients, to get them an hour longer in a swimming pool or an extra massage. Just small things.”
Before he flies to New York, Van der Sar will return to Manchester to watch
United. After six years at Old Trafford, during which he won four
He will pass on advice to David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard, the two players battling to succeed him as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, but he insists that United’s future between the sticks is in safe hands, ruling out a Scholes-esque retirement about-turn.
“I played my first game after retirement, a traditional game in Holland with former internationals against the country’s oldest club, in January and, the following day, somebody texted to say Scholesy was making his comeback.
“He played against
“It’s not that I retired because my knees were dodgy or anything, though, so yes, I could understand why people wondered about me.
“If two goalkeepers had been injured, for instance, and there was an injury crisis, maybe it could have happened like Jens Lehmann did at Arsenal a couple of years ago.”
Doubts over De Gea’s suitability to the English game persist, however, with the £18.3 million Spanish goalkeeper dropped for the recent 3-2 victory at Southampton following an unconvincing performance against Fulham last month.
Ferguson remains insistent that De Gea, still only 21, is the long-term solution, though, with Lindegaard merely offering reliable backup.
Van der Sar believes De Gea is worth persevering with, however, despite acknowledging that he must learn how to deal with high balls into the penalty area.
“I’ve been to the training ground a couple of times and have seen them both in action.
“David came in as a big talent. He started at an early age at Atletico Madrid, was given a chance because of injuries and showed himself to be a big prospect. That’s why United bought him. They saw him as the long-term replacement for me.
“David has great qualities, but I think at the moment, the high balls are his main focus.
“I know [goalkeeper coach] Eric Steele well, I spoke to him last week, and I know the whole team are working on every player to improve each one of them.”
He said the goalkeepers “work on our game so much because every thing we do is highlighted, especially if it leads to a goal. De Gea started young, at 17 or 18, like Iker Casillas at Real Madrid, and that is something I cannot imagine being able to do myself.”
Keeping goal for United is now the past for Van der Sar, but his future remains unclear. Coaching does not appeal, but while television work in Holland has proved to be enjoyable, a return to the game in a more senior role is a possibility.
“I got a masters in sports management in Amsterdam, where I studied two days every week,” Van der Sar said. “I’m just looking for something interesting to do, because I don’t want to go back on the pitch and coach.
“I prefer the other side, about how you run a club, where you get the finance from and how you attract sponsorship.
“I have a great respect for how
New York comes first, however. “My wife told me that we can always go to New York when it isn’t November and marathon week,” Van der Sar said. “She said you don’t have to run 42k to go to New York!
“On the Monday, you see people shuffling through the streets with medals around their necks, but it’s horrible to see everybody limping.
“At a Zebra crossing, you need a push before you can go!”
Follow Edwin’s marathon training schedule at @vdsar1970 and facebook.com/edwinvandersarfoundation. Donations can be made via www.edwinvandersarfoundation.org/en/