Safe hands: The top seven United shot stoppers

Should Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Sar keep a clean sheet for 84 minutes tonight against West Brom, the Dutchman will enter the history books for breaking Chelsea counterpart Petr Cech’s Premier League shut-out record of 1,025 minutes, set in 2005.

With this in mind, Sportsmail has glanced through the history books, selecting the top seven custodians who have become part of Old Trafford folklore...


7 Les Sealey

Les Sealey

The late Les Sealey (right) celebrates United's 1991 Cup Winners' Cup win

Given the unenviable job of a last-minute call-up for an FA Cup Final... and emerging with great distinction as well as a winner's medal.

Scotland keeper Jim Leighton had been having a nightmare after following Alex Ferguson from Aberdeen to Old Trafford.

And his shattered confidence reached its nadir in the 1990 Final when United escaped with a 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace.

Fergie took drastic action: he axed Leighton and turned to Luton old boy Sealey. 

He played a blinder, United won 1-0 and then offered his winner's medal to Leighton.

A year later he had another gong in his hand — a Cup-winners' Cup medal after United beat Barcelona in the Rotterdam final.

6 Ray Wood

The last line of defence as the Busby Babes were making the world sit up and take note.

He was the victim of one of the most brutal assaults ever on a football field, when Aston Villa's Peter McParland shoulder-charged him into unconsciousness.

Ray Wood

Wood work: The brilliant Ray Wood was the Busby Babes' last line of defence

In those pre-substitute days, the groggy Wood was patched up and courageously returned to play out the 1957 FA Cup Final on the wing despite having a broken jaw.

But for his injury that day, champions United would probably have been the first 20th Century club to win the Double.

5 Gary Bailey

Gary Bailey

Gary Bailey made 294 league outings for United in his nine years at Old Trafford

The keeper as Dave Sexton attempted to end United's long wait without a title.

Although Ipswich born, Bailey grew up in South Africa and paid for his own flight to Manchester so he could engineer a trial in 1978.

He, and United, never looked back as he not only earned himself a contract but quickly established himself as the Old Trafford No 1.

He went on to hold that distinction for the next 10 seasons, during which the FA Cup was won in 1983 and 1985. 

4 Alex Stepney                                                                                        

The first goalkeeper to win the European Cup for United, literally.

While the Wembley victory in 1968 will go down in history for the goals by Charlton, Best and Kidd, it was the save by Stepney, when he stood up in the dying moments to deny Eusebio as Benfica's Black Pearl homed in on goal, that kept United in the tie.

Alex Stepney

History boy: Alex Stepney became the first United 'keeper to lift the European Cup

As a contemporary of Gordon Banks, he didn't get as much international recognition as he might have hoped, but for United fans he was very much No 1.

3 Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg

Brave heart: The heroic Busby Babe, Harry Gregg was a brave survivor of the Munich Air Disaster

The Bravest of the Brave.

February 6, 1958, as his Busby Babe team-mates lay dead and dying on that runway at Munich, he thought nothing of his own safety as he battled back into the wreckage of the smouldering Britannia aircraft to rescue others.

He was no mean goalkeeper either — for United and Northern Ireland and a world-record purchase to boot — but at Old Trafford he will forever be revered for his heroism that snowy day 51 years ago.

2 Peter Schmeichel

Peter the Great, but not necessarily the greatest.

Yes, he won the European Cup, and, yes, he was captain that unforgettable night in Barcelona.

Peter Schmeichel

Great Dane: Schmeichel is regarded as one United's finest ever shot-stoppers

But while he was No 1 as United were re-writing English football's record books in the Nineties, the Dane did ship goals....although, he always knew that being part of a team with attackers like Hughes, Cantona, Yorke, Cole, Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, etc, meant United would invariably score more than the toughest of opposition.

1 Edwin van der Sar

The man whose penalty save won the 2008 European Cup.

Not just that, his outstanding form since joining from Fulham in 2005 became the foundation on which Sir Alex Ferguson was able to build his third and arguably greatest Old Trafford team.

While champions United were last season's top scorers, they also boasted the meanest defence — and the Dutchman was key.

Now he's on the verge of setting a Premier League record — no other United keeper can claim that. Holland's most capped player with 130 international appearances, his CV also includes European Cup and UEFA Cup victories as an Ajax player.     

Edwin van der Sar

Flying Dutchman: Edwin Van der Sar denies Nicolas Anelka from the spot to help United on their way to last year's Champions League final win over Chelsea

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