Attackers in the English Premier League in the 1990s may still have nightmares of a terrible snowman approaching them with his arms waving. ‘The Great Dane’ was a nickname of the goalkeeper who was part of the team that became European Champions in Sweden in 1992. In the semi-final, the Danish goalkeeper saved a penalty from Marco van Basten.
Peter Schmeichel copied his playing style from handball. With his enormous physique and waving his arms, he impressed opponents. His far throw-outs, well ober the middle line, were also copied from handball.
‘The world’s best grumbler’, says a portrait by the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad in 2000: ‘His tantrums are almost as numerous as his wonderful rescues. The expression on his face is beautiful – that is, if his anger isn’t directed at you. At Manchester United, Schmeichel and Alex Ferguson once had such a big fight that the goalkeeper was fired.
The Dutch goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw tells the daily, that he had to get used to those spells of anger. ‘I rember onec, I didn’t play a ball properly during warm-up. Normally, an apology suffices to continue. Not with Peter. But for Peter. He really scolded me. I did talk to him about that afterwards, because I thought it was fairly disrespectful. I t was not like that, he explained. For him it was a way to get concentrated. And I believe him, partly because I have never noticed a lack of respect for me.’
The other players of United did not even dare to shoot at Schmeichel during warm-ups because of his outages in the run-up to a match. ‘I was injured once and then another player had to warm him up’, Vander Gouw says. ‘Everyone looked at each other, and in the end the least experienced player was selected. He knew nothing about it. We felt sorry for him because of the way Peter yelled at him.’
With his enormous body and waving his arms, Peter Schmeichel impressed opponents
After eight years of playing at Manchester United, Schmeichel moved to Sporting Lisbon in 1999. He supposedly wanted play at a less competetive level. The Danish former Ajax player Soren Lerby does not believe this is true. He thinks his countryman chose for the soothing warmth of the southern country: ‘Portugal was better for his body. During the World Cup in France, Peter noticed that his muscles were much less stressed than in Manchester. The warmth was beneficial to him. That’s why he wanted to go and play in Southern Europe. ‘