‘I realised my thinking was wrong. And United were right’: Peter Schmeichel wanted Sir Alex Ferguson to sign Manuel Neuer instead of David de Gea in 2011 but admits Spaniard convinced him after stunning save at Chelsea
Peter Schmeichel believed Manchester United should have moved for Manuel Neuer back in 2011 but is delighted that David de Gea has proven him wrong.
Sir Alex Ferguson needed to find the right replacement for Edwin van der Sar when the Dutchman brought his six successful years at Old Trafford to an end by retiring.
And at the time, goalkeeping legend Schmeichel believed Schalke stopper Neuer, who’d just played against United in the Champions League semi-finals, was the ideal fit.
Peter Schmeichel has admitted that David de Gea wasn’t his first choice when Manchester United needed a keeper back in 2011 but that the Spaniard has changed his mind
Old Trafford legend Schmeichel wanted Sir Alex Ferguson to sign Manuel Neuer instead
German keeper Neuer had just impressed for Schalke against United in the Champions League
But Neuer went to Bayern Munich and Ferguson instead moved for unproven but highly promising 20-year-old Spanish keeper De Gea at Atletico Madrid.
Early struggles in the more physical environment of the Premier League led to question marks over whether De Gea had what was required to prosper under intense pressure at United.
But the Spaniard has just played his 400th competitive game for United and has been the club’s player of the year on four occasions.
Schmeichel told United’s ‘Unscripted’ series: ‘They knew it was so important to get it right and not spend years chasing the situation. At the time, I actually thought there was an obvious answer.
‘You had to look at how we play and ask: ‘right, where’s the guy that’s going to slot in?’ To me, we’d very recently seen the answer.
‘I thought Manuel Neuer was a perfect fit for us.
The Spanish goalkeeper moved to Old Trafford from La Liga outfit Atletico Madrid back in 2011
Sir Alex Ferguson welcomes the young Spanish keeper to United after his move from Atletico
Ferguson speaks to Neuer after the first leg of the United vs Schalke semi-final in 2011
‘He’d just been up against United with Schalke in the Champions League and, even though Schalke lost the tie, he’d shown us precisely what he could do.
‘He was a very aggressive goalkeeper. He played like I played. I played to my strengths. I knew where my weaknesses were and I tried desperately not to end up in situations where they might be exposed.
‘I was always trying to get my defenders to protect me from that. I really liked the way Neuer played – it might be because I played like that myself – and, to me, it felt like a natural move.
‘He suited us well and we wouldn’t have had to change how we played.’
But De Gea’s first few months in the Premier League were difficult as he struggled to adapt
The young keeper struggled to cope with the physicality of Premier League football at first
After Schmeichel moved on following United’s Treble triumph in 1999, it took Ferguson several years to adequately replace him with the likes of Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi and Fabian Barthez not succeeding.
And the Dane admits he had similar fears when De Gea arrived at Old Trafford.
He said: ‘I knew about David de Gea because he was a young player already playing for Atletico Madrid’s first team, so you just knew he obviously had something special, but I didn’t think we’d be going for him.
‘So when we did move for him, I honestly couldn’t understand why we’d gone down that route. I thought the experience of what had happened between me and Edwin would have been used, so it looked unusual to me.’
Schmeichel changed his mind after De Gea made a brilliant save in a 3-3 draw at Chelsea
De Gea struggled during his first few months in England, attracting plenty of criticism, but Schmeichel changed his mind following a brilliant save to deny future club-mate Juan Mata in a 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in February 2012.
‘From that point on, I was looking at David and thinking: This guy… he’s something special.
‘The guy’s mentality is incredible. You can’t break him.
‘David? He went to a really tough school and came out the other side, in no time at all really.
‘I realised my thinking was wrong. And United were right. They’d done a really good job in bringing him to Manchester.’