Peter Schmeichel – Victory In 1999
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s manager, certainly thought so. “At his best, I don’t believe a better goalkeeper than Peter Schmeichel has played the game,” Ferguson said. “He is a giant figure in the history of Manchester United and our debt to him will never be forgotten.” No doubt that is why in “Coronation Street”, Britain’s most popular TV soap opera which is set in Manchester, one of the characters has a dog named Schmeichel. The dog, like its namesake, is of course a Great Dane.
Schmeichel left United at the very top having captained the side to their famous Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in 1999. It was probably his decision to go up for a corner at the other end of the field in the last minute that caused the confusion in the Bayern box that led to United equalising and then winning; the final. Success followedSchmeichel throughout his career – after signing for Brondby, the club won the Danish league for four out of five seasons. Even when he left United for Sporting Lisbon, the club were Portuguese league champions in his first season. His final season at Sporting was remarkable only in that it was the first time in 14 years that the club he was at finished outside the top two in their domestic league. That led to a return to English football, and eventually to the club where the seeds were sown for Kasper Schmeichel to eventually rise up and attempt to fill the gloves of his awesome father. After a short spell at Aston Villa, Peter Schmeichel shocked Manchester United fans by signing for Manchester City. He soon showed his old club what they were missing as he maintained his record of never being on the losing side in a Manchester derby as City beat United at home and drew at Old Trafford.
Schmeichel was also hugely impressed with the Manchester City academy – a set-up which has since proven to be one of the most successful in England – and encouraged Kasper to sign on there rather than for United. That decision finally reached its inevitable consequence three games into this Premier League season when Kasper, having kept his goal intact in the opening two games, emerged at die City of Manchester Stadium to keep goal for City against United in the derby … and went on to make a string of saves to earn a 1-0 win for his team.
Mr and Mrs Schmeichel watched that match from the stands, proud as punch as their son proved to be the hero of the day. “It is very difficult to watch him,” Schmeichel senior says. “I know everything he goes through, from waking up, preparing for the game, eating lunch, on the coach to the ground, then warming up and approaching kick off… and there is nothing I could do to help. To me he is still my little boy. I know he is 20 and more than 6ft tall, but you know what I mean. He is very mature, he’s not flash, doesn’t show off or try to be clever.”
The display prompted Manchester City’s new manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to ponder whether to continue his search for a more experienced goalkeeper. Eriksson said: “Finding a keeper that is better than the ones I have is not easy. I have only known Kasper for one month but I can already tell he is an extremely confident boy. He is not the tallest of keepers but he is fantastic on the line. He has quick feet and takes everything there. He almost destroys the confidence of our strikers in shooting practice.”