Have you read any of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography and what is your reaction to it?
Do you know what? I didn’t even know he had a book out! I have absolutely no idea about this book, other than one or two little extracts I’ve seen in the media. But it’s impossible for me to make any comment on what’s been said because it’s going to be third, fourth, fifth hand. It’s not fair to ask me to comment on something that I haven’t read in his own words. I can see it’s causing a bit of a stir, though.
In the book he addresses the difficulty he had finding a successor to you at Manchester United after you left in 1999. Is there a part of you that wishes you’d stayed a bit longer?
No, not really. I had my reasons for leaving and even today I think they were valid reasons. One of the things was that I was wearing out. I had played basically playing eight solid years of football. There was either a World Cup or European Championship between seasons, or I had operations on injuries, so I never had time to recover from one season to the next, let my hair down and relax a little.
When I returned from the World Cup in 1998 after playing Brazil in July, I basically had to go back to training the next day. We were playing a Champions League qualifier against LKS Lodz of Poland at the end of July. For me it was such an uphill battle to think about another 10 months of playing two games a week. And that was the point when I said: ‘Listen. I enjoy my life, and if I go on like this I probably won’t last more than a year or two.’ I really wanted to play more football.
Shortly after that, teams started to rest players. That last season was more or less the same XI every game, one or two changes maximum. Maybe if I’d stayed I could have been shielded a little bit, but I’m not sure I would have liked that anyway. Looking back, I don’t think I made a wrong decision.
Regarding the demands of the job, some fans might look at goalkeepers and think it was relatively easy – how do you convey to people just how physically and mentally tough it is?
I’ve given up! I don’t even try any more. It’s not about running around, although we did ProZone and I was only two or three kilometres behind the strikers so I was running enough. But it’s not about that. It’s about the preparation, the mental side, everything about playing football requires maximum concentration, maximum output from you. At Manchester United the whole world is watching and you have to be perfect. So if you imagine doing that twice a week and you have to be perfect every time. That requires a lot of mental energy and strength. When you don’t have a break you can get mentally tired, and when that happens you can’t do everything you want to physically.
This season I’m talking about (1998/99), I came into it without a break, played absolutely fantastic for the first two months of the season. Then I started to make mistakes I’d never made before, I started to lose confidence and the media picked up on it. And that’s not because I’d become a bad goalkeeper – it was because my mind was overloaded and I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed a break. I went to see the manager and he gave me a break, 10 days away. Even just the knowledge of having those 10 days to look forward to was enough to get me back on track. And needless to say when I came back from that break I was back to my normal level.
What have you made of Manchester United’s start to the season and what does David Moyes need to do to turn things round?
Ler’s not beat around the bush, it’s been an inconsistent start to the season. But he’s new to the players and he doesn’t know them like Sir Alex did. It seemed Sir Alex could put out any combination of players and win, but David Moyes is not quite there yet. It will take him time to find out about every player, what they can do, what positions they can play. He will also want to play with some players that he’s signed, that have undivided loyalty to him.
This is a process, we knew it was going to happen and it was going to be difficult. I’m a big, big fan, and I’ve also been in the game for many years – I know what’s happening and I’m not worried. I think David Moyes is a very good manager and he’s a safe pair of hands who will take United back to where we are supposed to be. He’s tough, he’s got knowledge and he’s got support from everyone at the club. I’m convinced he’s going to take us to where we want to be, but it’s a process and any process takes time.
Looking more widely at the Premier League and its global popularity, how important are international fans to the Premier League ?
I think they’re essential to the existence of the Barclays Premier League. I don’t think there’s anything as big out there, and I’m thinking everything in life. I don’t think there’s anything where so many people have that enthusiasm for one common thing. In my work as an ambassador for Manchester United I experienced that time and time again, how enthusiastic they are, and the lengths they’ll go to be part of it, to watch games. It amazes me every time.
The film that accompanies the ‘Thank You’ campaign is just unbelievable. It brings home exactly the meaning of the Barclays Premier League. I can vouch for the content of the film because I’ve experienced it. I’ve been in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and I meet people and hear their stories about what the Barclays Premier League and what they’ll do to get involved.
Peter Schmeichel was speaking at the launch of the new global advert for the Barclays Thank You campaign. This season Barclays is saying thank you to all the dedicated global fans for their support in making the Barclays Premier League what it is.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester United
- Premier League
- David Moyes