Ben Foster has revealed the debt of gratitude he owes to Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
There was widespread speculation that Foster would be dropped for Saturday's Premier League win at Stoke after a poor performance in the Mnachester derby. Yet at the first available opportunity, Ferguson insisted he was sticking with the 26-year-old and was rewarded with a clean sheet as United defeated Stoke 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium to go top for the first time this season.
"I have to say a big thanks to the boss for sticking by me," said Foster. "Last Sunday was great for the team but personally, it was an absolute disaster. I was gutted afterwards. I was the only one in the changing room with an upside down smile on his face."
The torment continued long into the week as professional and amateur analysts had their say. Foster could have driven himself mad by pouring over every damning word. Instead, he chose to ignore it all.
"I pretty much buried my head in the sand," he said. "I didn't really want to watch the television and there was no way I was reading the papers the next day."
Not that Foster could escape scrutiny. But the assessments that mattered were kept within United's Carrington training complex as goalkeeping coach Eric Steele delivered his withering verdict.
"When we got into training I had to face up to it," he said. "I had to look at the replays, analyse them and learn from them.
"The goalkeeping coach has been on at me all week and was really hard on me. But I needed that and I like to think I have learnt from it. You are going to have those days as a goalkeeper sometimes and you have to keep them to a minimum."
As Foster acknowledges, mental fortitude is one of the major reasons why Edwin van der Sar has lasted so long at the top. Van der Sar makes mistakes like everybody else. His big advantage is not being affected by them.
"The more you play the more concentration and consistency you develop," he said. "Edwin is a typical example of Mr Cool. He is a fantastic professional and he is someone I want to emulate at Manchester United. He is exactly what I am aiming to be for years to come."
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