Stekelenberg tops Ferguson wish-list

Ajax and Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg tops Sir Alex Ferguson's list to replace the retiring Edwin van der Sar, according to United first-team coach Rene Meulensteen.

Ferguson has targeted the 28-year-old as the perfect replacement, preferring the experienced Dutch international to Schalke 04's stopper Manuel Neuer, despite the recommendations of his goalkeeping coach Eric Steele.

And with 40-year-old Van der Sar retiring from football at the end of the season, Meulensteen reckons the Red Devils will be trying to take Stekelenberg to Old Trafford in the summer, after seemingly ruling out a move for Atletico Madrid's David de Gea.

"Stekelenburg is indeed a keeper who is at the top of our wanted list," Meulensteen is reported to have told a Dutch radio station.

"We naturally talk a lot among ourselves about who should replace Van der Sar. Alex Ferguson has spoken about Stekelenburg with Edwin, and that does not seem strange to me at all."

United boss Ferguson hopes the club can cope with Van der Sar's impending retirement better than they did when Peter Schmeichel left Old Trafford in 1999.

Ferguson went through 10 keepers in six years trying to find the right successor to fill the big Dane's gloves, before eventually settling on Van der Sar, signing him from Fulham.

"We hope we are better organised about it this time," said Ferguson.

"I made a mistake. I should have taken Van der Sar at that time but didn't do. We tried several goalkeepers in the interim before I eventually got Edwin. Hopefully we'll be better prepared this time. We've learned from that."

United have been linked with a host of top keepers from across Europe over the last few months and recently completed the capture of inexperienced Danish custodian Anders Lindegaard from Norweigan side Aalesunds.

Lindegaard had hoped to take Van der Sar's No. 1 jersey next season, but now looks set to face competition from a more experienced keeper.

United are believed to have looked at Inter Milan's Julio Cesar and Rene Adler of Bayer Leverkusen.

By James Martini