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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Maine man signs off
By Nada Grkinic

Peter Schmeichel
Schmeichel prepares to say goodbye

"It's hard to accept that at Maine Road on 11 May the final whistle will sound on more than just another game and another season," Peter Schmeichel said in a recent interview.

Yet that is what the 39-year-old Dane had to accept, having announced in April his definitive retirement from the game that his large frame has graced for 20 years.

Schmeichel pulled on his gloves for one last time against Southampton on Sunday in a match that marked the end of an illustrious career.

And it is fitting that the setting was Maine Road, for Schmeichel has been, in many ways, the main man in Manchester since the early 1990s.

When Schmeichel arrived at Old Trafford in 1991, few could predict the impact he would have on shaping the fortunes of the red half of Manchester.

Sir Alex Ferguson paid 550,000 to secure the services of Schmeichel from Brondby at a time when Scandanavian goalkeepers were hardly sought after commodities.

Understandably, the capture of Schmeichel was not considered a major coup.

Many believe Ferguson produced his masterstroke in the transfer market the following year when he signed Eric Cantona from Leeds for 1.2m.

I don't believe a better goalkeeper played the game - he is a giant figure in the history of Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson

But if Cantona was the catalyst for United's first league title success in 26 years, then Schmeichel was the cornerstone of their domestic domination throughout the 1990s.

Ferguson described him as the "bargain of the century".

In that period, Schmeichel won no less than six championship medals and three FA Cup winners' medals.

His finest hour, however, came on a balmy summer's evening in Barcelona in May 1999 when United triumphed in the European Cup.

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer netted the injury-time winner that night, Schmeichel indulged in the kind of acrobatics which have been a hallmark of his career as United clinched an unprecedented Treble.

"When I look back at my career, the stand-outs are winning the European Championship with Denmark in 1992, my first league titles with Brondby, Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon, the 1998 World Cup and, above all, United's Treble in 1999," he revealed.

"In my eight years at United we won nine trophies. Winning became a must for us, a dependency.

Peter Schmeichel
Schmeichel helped United to European Cup success

"We showed each other that if you believe enough, dreams can be fulfilled.

"My dream was to become the best goalkeeper in the world, and the team's to become the best on earth.

"We came very close."

After the European Cup success, Schmeichel waved goodbye to Manchester and turned his back on the demands of the Premiership.

Yet his exile lasted just two years when he joined Aston Villa from Sporting Lisbon in 2001 before returning to Manchester to help establish Kevin Keegan's newly-promoted City side as a Premiership force.

And Schmeichel has done just that.

Despite suffering back and knee injuries this season, Schmeichel showed against Liverpool last Saturday why Ferguson insisted that "no better goalkeeper played the game".

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He produced a string of simply breathtaking saves to deny Liverpool victory and celebrated Nicolas Anelka's last-gasp winner against Gerard Houllier's men with the zest of a man making his debut, not one preparing to retire.

Letting go is never easy and the Premiership will be a poorer, albeit quieter, place without the Great Dane.




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Retiring Man City keeper Peter Schmeichel
"I'm not at all emotional"



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