The retirement of Dutch legend Edwin van der Sar at the end of 2010-11 campaign presented Sir Alex Ferguson with one of his most difficult challenges during his entire 25-year tenure at Old Trafford.

As the search for a replacement custodian to fill the boots, and gloves, of another influential Manchester United goalkeeper began in earnest, fans could be forgiven for making comparisons to the unenviable task that was finding a successor for another club favourite, the great Peter Schmeichel.

Step up David de Gea. The 21-year-old Spaniard arrived in England with a big reputation, signing from Atletico Madrid for £18.9million in June, fresh from U21 European Championship success in Denmark earlier that summer.

De Gea also won the Europa League in 2010 but remains relatively inexperienced in comparison to his understudy, Anders Lindegaard - the 27-year-old was already on the United payroll as a £3.5million signing from Aalesund in Norway last January.

Between them, Ferguson believed that his new generation of stoppers had enough talent and know-how to remedy what has threatened to be a problematic position for the reigning Barclays Premier League champions.

However, neither goalkeeper has been without fault this season, both struggling to make the No.1 spot their own, as United try desperately to move on from the Van der Saar era, with De Gea particularly finding it difficult to adjust to the physical demands of English football.

After being held accountable for the 3-2 loss to Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford on New Year's Eve, Lindegaard has played the last three games for United after finally displacing the young Spaniard, and now appears to be in pole position as the season approaches a crucial stage.

His greater experience has been evident during his 10 appearances this season, but having played less 'high level' first-team football than his opposite number, Lindegaard admits that he faces a long-term battle to keep De Gea out of the side.

"David has extraordinary attributes, he is extremely explosive and powerful," he said. "He is only 21, but his potential is massive and there is no doubt he will be United's best goalkeeper at some point.

"My job is to make sure it is not until I have retired. I don't need a [guarantee] of my position. I enjoy every game I play for United, it is a massive privilege."

The Danish international is expected to remain in goal for Sunday's trip to Arsenal, but he insists there is no bad blood between himself and De Gea, who continue to vie for that all-important starting spot.

"I am doing everything I can to help him," Lindegaard continued. "We have a very good relationship and I enjoy working with him. He's a great lad. He is happy, intelligent, always with a good attitude and we have to push each other.

"We have to see the glass half full, not half empty. It has been very good for both of us. Every time we play, the last guy to wish the keeper good luck is the other keeper."

It's fair to say that De Gea is seen as a long-term investment who is also meant to be holding down his place in the line-up at the moment. But what is even clearer is that nothing will come easy to him or, indeed, to Lindegaard.

But while the former has faltered, the latter seems invigorated after rising to the challenge and overcoming the odds - a defiance that is set to be rewarded with an extended run in the team.

"I am very proud of what I have made out of this," concluded Lindegaard, who struggled to hide his satisfaction. "Three years ago I was in Denmark's second division, nobody knew my name.

"It has been fantastic to this point and right now is not the time to relax about it, but to keep pushing on, to get better and to get the best for yourself and the club."

Topics:
Football
Premier League
Anders Lindegaard
Manchester United
David de Gea