Lucky 13 for van der Sar

The 40-year-old will join former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele

by making his 13th semi-final appearance when Manchester United

tackle Schalke. It is a quirk of Van der Sar’s career that the

first six of them came during his youthful days at Ajax. He had to

wait until his latter years to enjoy such achievements again.

However, having confirmed his retirement plans for the summer, Van

der Sar knows May 28 at Wembley could represent the most fitting

send-off imaginable. “It is always nice when you are involved in a

winning team,” he said. “We have been good recently, so hopefully

we can carry that on. “I have had a reasonable career so far. Let’s

hope I can finish it off nicely.” Van der Sar has so far resisted

the temptation to reverse his decision despite repeated attempts

from inside United’s dressing room. When he is still capable of

pulling off the type of fingertip stop that denied Everton’s Jack

Rodwell at the weekend, it is easy to see why so many observers

feel he could carry on. Yet Van der Sar is wary about losing his

powers overnight and has no wish to put his theory to the test. In

any case, for now he has more than enough to concentrate on. And

this evening he was happy to express his admiration for another

veteran, and the most obvious threat to United reaching their fifth

European Cup final, Raul, a comparative stripling at 33. “Raul is

quite an amazing player,” said Van der Sar. “He had so many years

at Real Madrid at a high level and scored so many goals for them in

the league. In addition, he is top scorer in the Champions League.

“He is not someone you can lose your eyesight of. “He is so

dangerous and only needs a little chance to score a goal.” Good

enough therefore for Van der Sar to issue a warning to Nemanja

Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and company about concentration that is

probably not required. “Our defenders should be on their toes when

they play against him,” he added.