Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has been placed on indefinite compassionate leave by the English champions after his wife had a brain haemorrhage.

The 39-year-old Dutchman, who has been absent since last month’s win over Everton because of a knee injury, had already been given permission to return to the Netherlands over Christmas to receive treatment from the national team doctor.

But his 36-year-old wife, Annemarie van Kesteren, collapsed last Wednesday as Van der Sar and his family were preparing to celebrate Christmas.

“Annemarie had a problem over in Holland a week ago and has been admitted to hospital - that is the best place for her to be,” said United manager Alex Ferguson. “They have examined her twice and are trying to get to the root of it. I have told Edwin to stay over there. There is no point in him being here. The best thing is for him to be with his wife. Hopefully she will make a good recovery.”

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