It looks like the first bit of transfer news coming from Old Trafford is going to be the outgoing Ben Foster to Birmingham.
We were, of course, hoping for a bit more exciting news of incoming transfers but all we have had so far is the usual gossipy rumoury stuff in the tabloids.
The news of Ben Foster’s imminent departure (even when it was little more than speculation) has brought out a mixed response from the United supporters.
Some feel that he was a good keeper who should have been given a bit more time. Perhaps a loan move to get him more experience.
Personally, I don’t think either of these would have made much difference to Ben Foster as a Manchester United player.
He is 27 years old and whilst that isn’t old by goalkeeper standards, he isn’t exactly spring chicken material either – time is not something neither he nor we can offer any more.
As for the loan suggestion, well, Ben Foster has almost exclusively spent his entire professional career on loan at one club or another and has tended to do well. We could have sent him on loan again, he would have done well and then we bring him back and the same old rookie mistakes would still be made.
And this is why I believe a move to Birmingham is a win-win for all concerned. Ben will get plenty of action, Birmingham get a very good goalkeeper and we get a decent return on the investment we made in Foster five years ago.
I believe that Foster’s problems are not his goalkeeping ability but that he is not mentally strong enough to hold such an important role at Manchester United. United’s record with goalkeepers over the years suggests that this is not something unique to Ben Foster. More experienced goalkeepers than Foster have wilted under the pressure the role brings with it.
The one mistake Foster made this season that proved to me more than any other that he goes to pieces playing in the “big” United games came during our first match against City. The ball was rolling roughly towards his area but it was rolling very slowly. Everybody could see that it wasn’t going to make it and Tevez gave chase. Foster still waited and waited and then when he realised he wasn’t going to be able to pick it up, he tried to take Tevez on but Tevez won the ball and passed to Gareth Barry to pass into an open net.
On his MUTV show, Paddy Crerand (who will never say a bad word against any United player) said that it was all part of the learning process and that he would “learn from that”. Well, I’m sorry but that kind of thing would have had an Under 12 team coach shaking his head in despair. Ben Foster should have kicked the ball downfield or out for a throw-in and he had plenty of time to do so.
He didn’t do that because of a lack of experience or goalkeeping knowledge, he did it because his brain turns to jelly under the intense pressure of playing at OT in a massive Manchester Derby in front of 70,000 people. If that was a Reserve game, he would have blasted the ball downfield no problem.
I think Ben Foster removed from this cauldron of high pressure will be a completely different keeper. If not exactly a Big Fish, Small Pond scenario he will certainly find that he fits his new environment more comfortably.
What this will probably lead to is some very good performances from Ben Foster and just for the record, I am going to get my defence of Alex Ferguson’s decision to sell him in before the inevitable attacks.
Twelve months from now, some people will be saying that it was a mistake to sell Foster and how he has “proved Fergie’s decision to sell him wrong” and it has been “another case of bad judgement from Fergie”.
When these comments inevitably arise they will all have missed the point.
Manchester United goalkeeper was too big a job for Ben Foster and whenever he was given the chance to prove otherwise he only made the truth even more obvious.