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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK


The Great Dane waves goodbye

Peter Schmeichel: Undeniably United's greatest goalkeeper

Ask any Premiership striker who they fear most between the posts and the answer will invariably be the same; Peter Schmeichel.

United's Euro Showdown
Eight years as the stalwart of the Manchester United team, Schmeichel has set new standards for goalkeepers across the world and has proved - time and time again - that it is possible to lead from the back.

Just ask those who have to play along-side him. Renowned for his capacity to verbally abuse his team-mates, Schmeichel is often portrayed as loud, aggressive and grumpy.


Ex United full-back Wilf McGuinness discusses Schmeichel's reign at Old Trafford
What no-one can deny of course is that he is good. Very good.

The European Cup final was a fitting last game for the keeper - he may have been caught out of position for Bayern's goal, but his superb saves late in the game helped keep United in the match.

And he even played his part at the other end of the field, leaving his goal to yomp into the opposition penaly area, where his presence helped create the goalmouth confusion that led to Teddy Sheringham's equaliser.

Busy schedule

According to the man dubbed the Great Dane, his decision to leave United was not about injuries or a desire to move his family home, but simply because he has wearied of heaving his 6f 5in frame around the world's goalmouths 60-plus times a year.


[ image: A dream finale as Schmeichel secures the Premiership trophy on his last league appearance]
A dream finale as Schmeichel secures the Premiership trophy on his last league appearance
Nor does it signal an intention to retire, or even relinquish his position in the Danish national team, with whom he has won a record 107 caps.

The move, when it comes, will be a free transfer and to a country with a schedule more conducive to a senior goalkeeper - possibly Denmark or the Netherlands.

But whatever path he takes he will inevitably be best remembered for his time at Manchester United.

Bargain signing

Schmeichel has been such a dominant character at Old Trafford that it is difficult to imagine the club without him.

The incomparable Eric Cantona apart, he was possibly Ferguson's most significant signing - and a snip at 600,000.

His impact on the club has been enormous. Two years ago a Schmeichel save against Rapid Vienna earned comparisons with the one Gordon Banks made for England against Brazil in 1970 - generally regarded as the best ever - and brought one of his proudest moments.

"I met Gordon and he said he thought my save was better," Schmeichel said after the game. " I know he was just being polite but having this big man saying that was very good."

Schmeichel's presence in this year's European campaign has been typically significant. There were crucial saves in both legs against Internazionale and in the opening joust against Juventus.

And his penalty save against Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp during the FA Cup semi-final is yet another example of his enormous talent - though it will always be overshadowed by Ryan Giggs' superb solo effort in extra-time.

Striker or goalkeeper?

As a player, the 35-year-old keeper has always been something of a showman - not only a master of his own penalty area but occasionally a threat to his counterpart's.

Frequently found in the opposition's area in the dying seconds of a match - he even scored from a corner against Rotor Volgorgrad, as a result of which he is entitled to be considered a more prolific scorer in Europe than Nicky Butt.


[ image: Schmeichel: Has scored as well as saved goals]
Schmeichel: Has scored as well as saved goals
Schmeichel's departure will be met with undoubted sadness by United fans. He informed Ferguson just before the start of the season, upon encountering what he called "a sixth sense" that the club might be interested in Aston Villa's Mark Bosnich, who is available without transfer fee this summer.

"I gave them a full year to find a replacement," Schmeichel said.

"If they wanted to go and have a talk with Bosnich they could. Enough was enough, I felt."

The perfect script has been written, allowing the curtain to fall on Schmeichel's United career with a win - and a treble - at Barcelona.

And he is in little doubt that his time at United has been spent wisely.

"I've been really good over the years at not thinking about the pressures, but this will be a big test for me.

"Manchester United has been the ultimate place to play football. I've loved every minute of it here. But it's time to move on."



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