Everton FC: Club Hands Ex-Gunner Manninger Trial in Search for Second-Choice

Brian CaneverCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2012

LEEDS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25:  Everton keeper Jan Mucha in action during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Leeds United and Everton at Elland Road on September 25, 2012 in Leeds, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

When David Moyes signed Slovakian superstar Jan Mucha in 2010, it finally seemed like Everton had found credible goalkeeping competition for American stalwart Tim Howard.

Two years down the road, however, and the club continue their search for a proper second-choice keeper after Mucha’s inability to find his feet at Goodison Park.

The former Slovakia first-choice keeper, who has only appeared 7 times for Everton and not once in the Premier League, issued a statement last month admitting he might quit the Toffees if he were not provided more opportunities.

It seems David Moyes did not take the threat very seriously.

Tim Howard, who continues to provide a security and leadership from between the sticks distinctly missing when Mucha plays in his place, is unlikely to lose his spot. Especially to a player who chose to retire from international football this month as a statement to Everton of his desire for first-team football.

By now, if the ex-Legia Warsaw keeper returns to the national team, it will likely be after finding regular football at a club once again on the European periphery.

So, that leaves Everton with no viable replacement if Tim Howard, who has made over 200 appearances during the course of seven seasons at the Merseyside club, were to succumb to injury or fatigue.

It is not probable that Howard would be ousted from his current role on form, instead following the trajectory of another long-serving American, Brad Friedel, who was benched for the first time in almost nine seasons last weekend for Tottenham Hotspur. Yet the 33-year-old is still in need of at least a worthy apprentice for the future—something Mucha could never be at only four years his junior.

Perhaps that is why Everton were linked with rising star and Olympic keeper Jack Butland during the summer. Nevertheless, at only 19 years old and with tremendous potential, he eventually proved too expensive for the financially stricken Blues.

Yesterday, an apparent link to former Arsenal and Juventus goalkeeper Alex Manninger appeared in The Daily Mail and it seems that Moyes has agreed to give the veteran at least a shot on trial.

If the link does prove to be true, it will be the second-time in two seasons that the manager gives a free-agent stopper an opportunity to impress. Last year, the Toffees signed former US international Marcus Hahnemann on a short-term deal.

Manninger, who played under 40 times overall at Juventus while an understudy to Gianluigi Buffon from 2008-12, fits the mold of a cheap security option if Howard should require time off.

However, despite playing for almost a decade as Austria’s first-choice keeper, and impressing for several games in an Arsenal shirt before the turn of the millennium, he would not be significantly superior to Mucha. Aside from experience in European competition, it is difficult to see any real improvement if Everton were to land the journeyman keeper--unless they could turn a profit with Mucha's sale in January.

For now, Everton and Moyes are left with little option but to hope that the invincible Tim Howard stays in tip-top form as the club challenges for a place in Europe after a three-year absence.