The football world was shocked when Peter Schmeichel decided to call time on his Manchester United career, so soon after clinching the treble in Barcelona in 1999. He explained to his teammates that he was planning to retire. They were as surprised as everyone else when he returned to the Premier League to play for Aston Villa and Manchester City after a two-year stint in Lisbon.
The Great Dane was a phenomenal goalkeeper. Perhaps the greatest the Premier League has ever seen, just as Thierry Henry was probably the most complete forward. As well as club and international titles, he also racked up an incredible number of personal awards. He was named UEFA goalkeeper of the year three times and has inducted into the English and Danish Football Halls of Fame.
Let’s take a look back at the moments that defined his memorable career.
Peter Schmeichel’s Early Career
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Schmeichel first turned out for local club Gladsaxe-Hero, before moving onto Hvidovre, where he scored a remarkable six goals in 78 appearances.
He secured a move to Danish giants Brondby in 1987, which was where he began to make a name for himself as an intimidating, ruthless goalkeeper. He would claim five honours at Brondby, including the Danish Superliga title on four occasions.
The Danish national team first called him up after signing for Brondby and quickly became their first-choice goalkeeper at Euro 88. Four years later, he would star in the Denmark side that famously won the European Championships. The first and only time in the nation’s history they have won a major football title.
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Schmeichel At Manchester United
In the season before his heroics at Euro 92, Schmeichel signed for Manchester United for just over £500,000. A transfer deal that Sir Alex Ferguson later described as “the bargain of the century”. In his first season at Old Trafford, Schmeichel and his teammates would have to settle for second place. An Eric Cantona-inspired Leeds United won the last ever First Division Title, before the foundation of the English Premier League.
In his eight years at Manchester United, the Great Dane won five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. He inspired United to their first crown in the 1992-93 season, after keeping an impressive 22 clean sheets.
Although Schmeichel famously fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson after a catastrophic performance against Liverpool in 1994 that almost spelt the end of his United career. He stayed on at Old Trafford and completed his contract. He inspired his team to further glory throughout his time with the club.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of his career came at the Nou Camp, Barcelona, in 1999. After ninety minutes of the final, United, trailing 1-0 to Bayern Munich, remarkably scored two goals in a minute to bring the Champions League home to Manchester and complete a famous treble. Few will forget Schmeichel’s cartwheel in celebration of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last-minute winner.
Peter Schmeichel Moves To Portugal
After the drama of Barcelona, Schmeichel left United to enjoy a slower pace of football, signing for Sporting Lisbon on a two-year deal. He helped Sporting to their first Primera Liga title in eighteen years and looked destined to retire in Portugal.
However, after an underwhelming second season in the Primera Liga, he decided to have one more shot at the Premier League. Signing for Premier League team Aston Villa in 2001.
The Premier League Return
When he came back to the Premier League, Schmeichel wasn’t as unbeatable as he once was. However, he became the first goalkeeper ever to score a Premier League goal. Netting a late consolation in Aston Villa’s 3-2 defeat to Everton in 2001.
Much to the horror of Manchester United fans, Schmeichel signed for rivals Manchester City before the start of the 2002-03 season. In an unremarkable final campaign, Schmeichel maintained an incredible record of his: he remained undefeated in Manchester derbies [he had never been on the losing side for United], as City won the contest at Maine Road and picked up a point at Old Trafford.
Peter Schmeichel announced his retirement from football in April 2003. He has featured as a pundit for the BBC and was a regular on Match of the Day until 2005. He has also worked as an analyst in his native Denmark for UEFA Champions League matches.
Away from football, he is a brand ambassador for betting company STS Bet, Manchester United and Carlsberg. And is also a popular after-dinner and motivational speaker and football pundit.