ANDERS LINDEGAARD was one of the few Manchester United goalkeepers over the years to very nearly oust David de Gea from his starting spot.
His chance came in January 2012, when he was told by Sir Alex Ferguson that his impressive performances in training had earned him a starting berth.
De Gea, who had come in for a then big-money £29million from Atletico Madrid at the start of the 2011-12 season, was struggling to settle and Fergie was willing to give Lindegaard a run until the end of the season.
But Lindegaard, who had joined United from Norwegian side Aalesund for around £3.5m in 2010, told Manchester Evening News that his dream big break soon became a nightmare.
After starting six of seven games, it looked as though the shirt was Lindegaard’s to lose.
But as the team prepared to face Stoke City in January, Lindegaard’s fortunes turned for the worse.
The Dane spoke about how the injury he suffered in training ended up as a turning point in his career.
He said: “I found myself lying on the ground with a badly hurt ankle, finished for the season. The instant it happened I knew it was bad. I was in agony but the hurt from the reality of the situation was far more painful.
“I was just quietly lying on the ground with tears streaming down my face. It was a turning point, a painful turning point.”
Lindegaard admits that he struggled to ever return to the standards that had once seen him take the number one shirt off De Gea – despite returning to fitness for the 2012 European Championships at the end of that season.
Lindegaard said the injury badly affected his form thereafter, explaining: “I couldn’t jump off my right leg and my distribution was badly affected. My distribution at the time was my edge, my kicking was top-class.
“When that didn’t work it was difficult for me to play with confidence. And it’s difficult to be a goalkeeper without confidence.”
The following season, he played the minimum 10 times to earn a Premier League winners medal in Fergie’s final year in charge.
However, he said he was naive in not telling the manager just how much he had been struggling with injury and felt he was not truly part of the team’s success.
He said: “The whole following year, which was the boss’ [Ferguson’s] final year, I was struggling badly. I wasn’t smart enough to tell the management I wasn’t feeling right and take my time to get it fixed. I just wanted to play and contribute. I ended up playing ten Premier League matches that season to earn my winner’s medal. But I performed badly.
“Looking at it retrospectively I’m proud to be a Premier League winner. But I performed badly that season and didn’t feel it was my honour.”
After Fergie left, he would only go on to play three times again for United as he became a clear second-choice under David Moyes.
He left United for West Brom in 2015 in a move he says he now regrets.
He says at the time he only wanted to play, but should have accepted a back-up role: “In the end the choice was between extending my contract and accepting my role or try something new. I chose something new. I regret that now but it is what it is.
“A life without regrets is a life not worth living for me. It was a difficult time for the club. Under Sir Alex, everything was like being a part of a closely-knit family. He was the great charismatic patriarch who held everything together.”
Despite leaving United in search of first-team football, his fortunes did not really improve.
He only appeared in one game for the Baggies, before moving to Preston where he played 24 times.
He played twice following a move to Burnley before moving to the Swedish league in 2019.
Last year, the keeper hung up his gloves at the age of 38 after saying he’d come to the realisation he’d run his race in football.
He explained: “Both physically and mentally I have no more energy to play professional football. I don’t feel the same enjoyment and passion for being on the pitch anymore.
“I’ve always been very clear about finishing my career too late than too soon. I would never forgive myself for doubting if I should have played another year or two.”
The keeper is yet to announce his next big step in terms of career, but his Instagram is testament to the fact that he is focusing on spending time with his family and fishing.
His 329k followers are often treated to the idyllic scenes of him fishing in the Danish fjords, and cooking what he catches.