Van der Sar to hang up gloves
Veteran Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has confirmed will retire from football at the end of the season.
The 40-year-old former Holland international moved to Old Trafford from Fulham in 2005 and helped the Red Devils to three Premier League titles and Champions League glory in 2008.
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Quoted on the website of his management agency, he said: "It is now time to pay attention to my family."
Van der Sar has been contemplating hanging up his boots since his wife Annemarie collapsed with a brain haemorrhage in December 2009.
"I cannot really identify a time when it [the decision] happened," said the former Ajax man. "Let's just say that it was playing on my mind from the moment Annemarie had her stroke.
"She has fought back from it. We decided on another year in England and thus to stay at Manchester United.
"But, once engaged in the season, the thought of saying goodbye started to gnaw a bit more emphatically."
United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele believes van der Sar will go down alongside former Red Devil Peter Schmeichel as one of the club's greats following his decisive penalty save from Nicolas Anelka in the Champions League final shootout against Chelsea in May 2008.
Steele told Radio Manchester: "Edwin will retire at the end of the season.
"It has been a mutual decision between the manager, the team and Edwin.
"He has been a fantastic servant. I was very lucky. I worked alongside Peter Schmeichel at Villa and I worked with Edwin for two and a half years.
"That penalty save in Moscow has elevated Edwin alongside Peter."
Van der Sar admitted it had not been an easy decision but he feels the time is right.
He added on www.sport-promotion.nl: "One minute you're out. The next, you question it again. I thought about stopping, maybe a year ago. It is a difficult process. After a defeat, I thought differently than after playing a few good games in a row.
"My age played no role. I am 40 years old, but I still feel fit.
"And then the decision came suddenly. Do not ask me how or why, but suddenly you know. That was sufficient.
"The time has come to devote greater attention to my family - although they have never complained. Everyone in the family has indeed always had to focus on me, but we have also had a lot in return."
The announcement will come as no surprise to United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
"We are planning for this being his last season," he said last month.
Given his vast experience, Van der Sar is bound to be an attractive proposition as a coach, and has been linked with a role in Ferguson's backroom staff.
"Edwin is a player who would be of interest in terms of his knowledge and standing in the game," added the Scot.
Having stated on numerous occasions his regret at not bringing in Van der Sar as an immediate replacement for Schmeichel when the Dane retired in 1999, Ferguson will want to avoid being similarly exposed this time around.
Denmark international Anders Lindegaard has already been brought in from Aalesund, while Schalke's Manuel Neuer continues to be linked with an Old Trafford move.
Van der Sar started his career with Ajax in 1990 and enjoyed nearly a decade of success in Amsterdam.
He picked up four Eredivisie titles and three Dutch cups on the domestic front and savoured European success with a UEFA Cup win in 1992 and Champions League glory three years later.
Two years at Juventus followed before a switch to Fulham in 2001. He soon established himself as one of the most reliable keepers in England and attracted the attention of United in 2005.
Van der Sar was charged with the task of filling the boots of Schmeichel, who left Old Trafford in 1999 after a wonderful spell at the club which ended with a Champions League victory.
Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Raimond van der Gouw, Fabien Barthez, Roy Carroll and Ricardo had all tried and failed to command the United defence in the same manner as Schmeichel before Van der Sar arrived between the posts.
Van der Sar retired from international football after Euro 2008 and, although he briefly returned to help out Oranje coach Bert van Marwijk in two 2010 World Cup qualifiers a few months later, he hung up his gloves for good after that with a national record 130 caps to his name.