Joining Manchester United for £505,000 in 1991, captaining the side to Champions League glory in 1999, picking up dozens of trophies in his eight year tenure and described as ‘bargain of the century’ by Sir Alex Ferguson – has there ever been a better goalkeeper than Peter Schmeichel?
Nicknamed the Great Dane, and rightly so – Schmeichel was instrumental for club and country throughout the 90’s and was named as ‘The Worlds Best Goalkeeper‘ in 1993 and 1994, however it wasn’t all sweetness and light for this United legend.
We all know of the race row surrounding Peter Schmeichel and Ian Wright – and we all know of the infamous sacking of the Danish giant, only for Sir Alex to reinstate him after an immaculate apology – but away from these moments, what we all tend to forget is when the former United captain arrived in England he was only half of the size in physical stature as when he left the country; he rarely came from crosses and on more than one occasion got bullied by opposition strikers.
It was only last week I dusted off a few of my old videos – for those of you who are too young to remember, these were what we watched before DVD’s became the norm.
I sat and watched season reviews for 1992/93, 1993/94, and 1994/95 and despite the earliest of these three having Schmeichel on the front cover of the video case as well as a three minute montage showcasing his great saves, it was obvious he was a flapper. Not only was he a flapper, he made more than one howler.
If you can, just watch footage from games against Aston Villa, Oldham, Wimbledon and Everton and you will realise the Danish giant in his early days did cost Manchester United points, which brings me nicely onto our current number one, David De Gea.
West Brom away; the opening day of 2011/12 season and the Baggies were targeting a skinny and somewhat unconfident De Gea. The young Spaniard was dominated from start to finish by the West Brom attack him and he seemed to have a very weak set of wrists.
He could not speak English and did not live up to the hype – had United been sold a dud?
18 months on, De Gea looks bigger -not by much, but he has definitely been on the protein shakes; he is far more commanding in the box and communicates with the players around him.
He also still pulls off world class saves every single week. Shot stopping was never his problem, but it seems his all round game is finally catching up.
Yes there is the odd occasion when he should catch but opts to punch – and there are those times when the media get on his back and make a mountain out of a molehill – but the fundamental point is De Gea has improved in vital areas – and at the tender age of 22, is still only going to get better.
If there was one goalkeeper in Manchester Uniteds history who could rival the influence and ability of Peter Schmeichel, to the misfortune of De Gea it was the man he was brought in to replace, Edwin Van Der Sar.
Van Der Sar was the model professional and already the finished article when he arrived in Manchester.
A experienced leader, an inspiration to his team mates and a guy who could win matches single handedly – he should have been signed by United as Schmeichel’s replacement in 1999 but had already agreed to join Italian giants Juventus.
He should have been signed in 2001 but wasn’t as he had already agreed to join Fulham. Que the list of goalkeepers who did not make the grade in and around this time:
Fabien Barthez, Massimo Taibi, Mark Bosnich, Andy Goram, Roy Carroll, Ricardo, Tim Howard, Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Foster.
Within this list there is a hell of a lot of ability. Some really good goalkeepers, shot stoppers, leaders and down right crazy characters – but sadly, not the all round package and certainly not good enough for United.
Look at this list and honestly ask yourself if you see David De Gea finding himself on there?
I believe Anders Lindegaard might find himself part of this gang, but certainly not De Gea.
Edwin Van Der Sar was already established as the greatest goalkeeper of his generation upon arrival, and this is why my I rarely choose to compare De Gea to Van Der Sar. However, when Peter Schmeichel arrived, he was as much of a rookie as De Gea – and he went on to prove himself as the worlds greatest.
I do not think Asmir Begovic is a better goalkeeper than De Gea. I do not think there is a better goalkeeper in the Premier League than De Gea.
I believe the improvement De Gea has made since August 2011 has been duly noted and I believe the improvement he can continue to make should be recognised and I am firmly of the opinion that Manchester United should stick with him.
Am I wrong? Why not tell me – I am on Twitter: @NathonW
For all United news and banter: @RFFH