Manchester derby could be defined by battle of the goalkeepers

JOE BERNSTEIN: Man City’s Mr Cool Ederson is sharply contrasted with much-maligned Andre Onana – but this Manchester derby could be defined by the battle of the goalkeepers

  • Ederson has helped redefine the role of the goalkeeper in English football at City 
  • Onana has had an imperfect start at Man United but could yet rise to challenge 
  • Follow Mail Sport’s new Man United’s WhatsApp channel for the breaking news 

Ederson has redefined goalkeeping in this country, but Manchester City team-mates can vouch that he is much more than just a talented pair of feet.

‘He loves the physical side, too. Ultimate Fighting Championship and things like that,’ says Scott Carson, his fellow City keeper.

‘I’ve seen him in the gym trying to get us in that arm bar or headlock. A top guy, but I don’t think too many people would like to get on the wrong side of him.

‘He has it in his locker, to be a little bit mental. Coming out and catching a striker? He is definitely game for that.’ 

Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford could be a tale of two goalkeepers. Ederson versus Manchester United’s new No1, Andre Onana, is a repeat of last season’s Champions League final when City edged out Inter Milan 1-0 to complete the Treble, thanks in part to the Brazilian’s brilliance.

Ederson has gone some way towards changing goalkeeping in England during his spell at City

Andre Onana has had a troubled start to life in the Premier League but put in a heroic turn against Copenhagen in the Champions League on Tuesday

The Brazilian’s decorated career could see him overleap Man United keeper Peter Schmeichel

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While United hope Onana’s match-winning penalty save against Copenhagen in the Champions League in midweek gives him a boost after a tricky start in England, Ederson has been settled for six years and is now aiming for history. If City are crowned champions again, Ederson becomes the Premier League’s most successful goalkeeper with a sixth title, surpassing United’s Peter Schmeichel.

Ederson’s hero growing up in Sao Paulo was Rogerio Ceni, a keeper who scored 65 goals from taking free-kicks and penalties. When Ederson joined Benfica, they regularly used him in training as a midfielder. ‘I was never embarrassed,’ he said confidently.

Since signing for City in 2017, his influence on our game has been remarkable, with a range of passing to make many outfield players jealous. But the heavily tattooed 30-year-old hasn’t had the best of weeks, having been rested for the last league game against Brighton and then lobbed on Wednesday by Young Boys forward Meschak Elia. Nonetheless, Carson thinks it’s time Ederson is mentioned in the conversation with Schmeichel as the best keeper that the Premier League has ever seen.

‘The old-school thinking was that foreign goalkeepers were good with their feet while we were brought up to keep the ball out of the net,’ Carson says. ‘But Eddie’s not only good with his feet. He’s brave, comes for crosses and makes unbelievable saves.

‘Other goalkeepers I speak to love how cool he is. Even us watching from the bench, it’s like “Whoaa!” when he plays a pass with someone a yard away. His mentality is so strong: if someone gets close, the next ball he lets them get even closer! I grew up watching Schmeichel and it’s now too hard to say which one was better because the game has changed. I’m not sure Schmeichel could do the things Eddie does. If you watch some games, he is a centre-half when we’ve got the ball, not a keeper standing in his six-yard box.

Former Brazil goalkeeper and freekick maestro Rogerio Ceni is one of Ederson’s sports icons

Onana has been much maligned since his move from Inter Milan to Old Trafford last summer

Ederson previously faced off with Onana at this year’s Champions League final – and came off the better

‘He’s waiting for the strikers to get a yard of space. Goalkeeping has changed, even since 2010. Eddie has been consistent and won everything.’

The Ederson effect has also trickled down. ‘We work on distribution now even at our level,’ says David Martin, goalkeeper coach of National League Southend. ‘Edwin van der Sar might have been the first in England, but Ederson has taken it to another level.’

Other managers have made it their mission to find their Ederson, most notably Erik ten Hag, who paid £47million last summer to sign Onana from Inter, having worked with him at Ajax. 

Meant to be better on the ball than David de Gea, United haven’t yet benefited as an attacking force from Onana’s arrival, scoring only 11 goals in nine games. The Cameroon international has also come under the spotlight following mistakes against Brentford and Galatasaray. 

‘The main job of a goalkeeper is to save,’ Ten Hag says. ‘But, yeah, he is a keeper we can use as an extra player if we are developing play.

‘Football is 11 v 11 in any country but there is more to the Premier League as well. There is greater speed and intensity. There is a difference and players need time.’

Onana’s spot-kick save to deny Jacob Larsson on Tuesday may prove a game-changer for him.

This afternoon, with fans still mourning the loss of Sir Bobby Charlton, will be his biggest test yet, against Erling Haaland and World Cup-winner Julian Alvarez.

David de Gea understands all to keenly how a Manchester derby can define a goalkeeper’s fate

At the other end, Ederson won’t be panicking about the prospect of facing Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, despite both scoring in last season’s corresponding fixture. ‘City goalkeepers need to be calm and show personality,’ Ederson says. ‘I don’t feel that pressure at all. Teams press to try and win the ball high, but I have great options to find passes.’

Manchester derbies have a habit of finding out goalkeepers. The last FA Cup final scuppered De Gea’s chances of a new United deal when he was blamed for Ilkay Gundogan’s winner.

Onana will hope to avoid similar drama today. For Ederson, another step closer to overhauling Schmeichel beckons, and maybe a celebratory headlock.


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