Ask anyone to cast their mind back through Manchester United’s greatest ever goalkeepers and odds are Peter Schmeichel will be somewhere close to the top of the list.
The Dane was renowned for his shot-stopping abilities, and boasted a fearsome presence when commanding his box. Along with that was a reputation of a somewhat fiery personality that has been well-documented on more than one occasion.
It was that temper that actually came dangerously close to ending Schmeichel’s United career, following an intense changing room showdown with Sir Alex Ferguson.
The incident was sparked by a 1994 trip to Anfield, in which United threw away a three-goal lead against their fierce rivals.
“It was a game we should have won 8-0 but we ended up 3-3,” Schmeichel told Jamie Carragher on The Greatest Game podcast. “We were 3-0 up in no time and we had chance after chance.
“I liked to think that I was keeping us in the game because I was so busy in that second half before the equaliser happened unfortunately.”
Despite putting in what he felt was a decent performance, Schmeichel went on to explain how he thought he was being singled out for unfair criticism by the manager.
“The only thing he was saying after the game was about my goal kicks. I had about 700 goal kicks in the second half and I’m hitting them 80 yards but straight up to the defenders who would head it back. He was sick and tired of that.
“I just lot it a little bit. I lost my composure. The thing about him and I want to stress this, you could always argue back. No matter how angry he was, you could always argue back and always defend yourself.
“But this scene was just ugly. It was a Saturday game and we were back in Monday. He called me in first thing and said, ‘You know I have to sack you?’”
Refusing to back down, the former goalkeeper responded: “I was still fuming at that time so I said, ‘Fine. So let me go.’ I was just being stupid.
“There was a meeting in the dressing room afterwards where he went absolutely berserk.”
The following Monday, Schmeichel would apologise to his teammates. Unknown to him, Sir Alex was stood on the other side of the door listening in, a coincidence that wound up serving him extremely well.
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“People were about to go out on to the pitch and I said, ‘I want to apologise to all of you for my behaviour on Saturday. That’s unheard of. I’ve apologised to the manager as well and I don’t think a player should ever behave that way. If I insulted anyone, I really do apologise for that as well,” He told the squad.
“And this is something that my agent told me, he told my agent that he was outside the dressing room and he heard that. And he changed his mind because I apologised.
“I don’t think he was ever going to sack me. He never said it to the players. He only ever said it to me. He was right and I was wrong, right from the beginning of this.”
Whether Ferguson’s threat was genuine or not, the argument ultimately didn’t spell the end of Schmeichel’s United career. After spending a further five years with the club, he’d leave Old Trafford on the highest possible note in 1999, shortly after his side’s historic treble-winning season.