‘Really tough’ - Emotional Man Utd legend’s telling interview before quitting Ajax makes for difficult listen

Edwin van der Sar opened up on a ‘tough’ season at Ajax that left him needing to ‘get some distance and some rest’ following his departure as CEO.
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In his final, telling interview before quitting as Ajax CEO, Manchester United legend Edwin van der Sar spoke of the toll that criticism had been taking on his mental health.

The ex-goalkeeper left the club at the end of May after a difficult season had fans calling for his departure from the role he has held since 2016.

The Dutch club have struggled since manager Erik ten Hag left for the Red Devils last summer, sacking successor Alfred Schreuder and failing to qualify for next season's Champions League with a third-place Eredivisie finish.

In an official statement confirming his departure, van der Sar hinted at emotional struggles as 'an incredibly tough period' left him needing to 'get some distance and some rest'.

Shortly before his departure, the 52-year-old sat down with Jake Humphrey to record an episode of The High Performance Podcast, which was broadcast on Monday.

In the episode description, Humphrey wrote: "We recorded this in a hotel room overlooking the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam. Edwin, at the time of recording, was the Chief Executive of the football club.

"He walked into the room and I said to him, 'how are things?'

"The reply was a one-word swear word. Immediately it was clear to us that pressure was taking its toll on this guy. We then spoke at length about the truth of what life's like at the top of a football club."

Tensions ran high at Ajax this season (Image: Getty Images)Tensions ran high at Ajax this season (Image: Getty Images)
Tensions ran high at Ajax this season (Image: Getty Images)

As well as opening up on his time as a player, including a famous stint at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson, the shot-stopper spoke of the intense outside pressure he was feeling in his job.

He said: "It's tough. Absolutely. It's really tough.

"That's the name of the game, performances make or break people. That applies for players, coaches and a CEO. I'm not used to anything else.

"The toughest thing is the doubts that people have in your ability. I have been doing this for 11 years, I'm not a novice. I think the organisation is strong, it has been stronger in the past.

"You have to every time think if your own qualities are enough for the organisation you're working. How much effort did you put into it? How much effort are you still willing to put into it? Is the connection still there with your staff and players? That's a constant situation.

"The way media or people are reacting to defeats or bad signings, commercial partners, everyone likes to think something. Sometimes people are talking loud on TV or putting anonymous stuff on the internet and that's not nice. You can put it out in the world and it's gone for you. You get attention for different or crazy opinions."

Following his departure Pier Eringa, chair of Ajax's supervisory board, shared that the club wanted van der Sar to stay but that the club respected his mind had been made up.

Alan Smith was a Premier League winner in 2007 with Manchester United, playing alongside Edwin Van Der Sar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne RooneyAlan Smith was a Premier League winner in 2007 with Manchester United, playing alongside Edwin Van Der Sar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney
Alan Smith was a Premier League winner in 2007 with Manchester United, playing alongside Edwin Van Der Sar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney

Eringa said: "The last season does not reflect the entire period that he has been in charge of Ajax. The club has seen a lot of success, has seen a lot of growth, and gained international exposure.

"His tasks will be transferred to the remaining members of the board. Edwin will be available for the transfer and advise until August. We expect to announce a new Board of Directors after August 1. It's our ambition to add someone to the board with an Ajax background."