Stat anoraks in a frenzy over Van der Sar
The anoraks have had to dig deeper and deeper into their stat books to deny Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar another goalkeeping record.
His side’s 3-0 win over a toothless Fulham at Old Trafford on Wednesday took the 38-year-old Dutchman’s unbeaten league run to 14 successive games and an astonishing 1,302 minutes.
Some sources had suggested that he would claim the European record for league clean sheets if he kept Fulham out for an hour.
That hope was dashed before the kickoff however when the number crunchers revealed that the mark apparently belongs to Club Bruges goalkeeper Dany Verlinden, who went 1,390 minutes unbeaten in Belgium in 1990, rather than the mere 1,275 minutes of Atletico Madrid keeper Abel Resino.
According to the United website, their man will now have to keep Blackburn Rovers at bay for another 89 minutes at Old Trafford on Saturday before claiming the outright record.
But even that won’t be close to what has so far emerged as the world best.
According to Opta stats on the Daily Telegraph website, Brazilian Mazaropi went 1,816 minutes unbeaten between May 1977 and Sept 1978 for Vasco da Gama.
What Van der Sar does have so far is the English league, Premier League and British league records as well as the longest European league run in one season.
The British record for going unbeaten in all competitions still belongs to Chris Woods who kept everyone out for 1,196 minutes at Rangers in 1986-87.
But how much do any of these matter? However brilliant the goalkeeper, surely such records have as much to do with the quality of the team in front of him than his own skills between the posts.
How does the Belgian league of 1990 really compare to the Premier League, where Van der Sar has to face some of the best strikers in the world on a weekly basis?
The stats are fun but titles are what counts. And while Van der Sar’s league record could run and run, it won’t be much of a consolation if United lose to Inter Milan in the Champions League next Tuesday.