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Peter Schmeichel bows out with reputation intact

London: Peter Schmeichel has spent 20 years delivering blasts of apoplectic fury whenever his team conceded a goal and now, having announced his retirement, he hopes to put that faculty to good use in a management career.

The big Danish goalkeeper is hanging up his boots after Manchester City’s final game of the season on May 11, admitting that his 39-year-old body can no longer take the punishment of regular football.

He wants to expand his media work and would like a career in management, with a return to Old Trafford his ultimate target. His immediate aim, however, is to enjoy some quality time with his family after a lifetime of working weekends.

“For years I’ve missed family birthdays, friends’ parties, weddings, christenings,” he said in a Sunday Times column after revealing his decision to retire earlier this month. “My family have gladly made sacrifices, now I can give back to them.”

However, Schmeichel says that the quiet life will satisfy him only for a while and that he cannot survive without the buzz of the game he loves.

“I’ll enjoy the summer but soon I’ll want to get going again,” he said. “The most natural thing would be to go into management. What I’ve learnt from Alex Ferguson, Kevin Keegan, Morten Olsen and others will set me up for such a challenge.”

One thing he will have learned from all of them is that you cannot have a great team without a great goalkeeper — and Schmeichel certainly fitted that description throughout his trophy-laden career.

Ferguson paid Brondby just £550,000 ($875,100) in 1991 to bring the Danish international to Manchester United in one of his most inspired transfer deals.

Schmeichel was immediately impressive and as his reputation grew so did his apparent size in the eyes of onrushing opponents, as he perfected the art of staying on his feet and “making himself big”.

At his peak during United’s glory days in the 1990s, when he was probably the best in the world at his job, Schmeichel carried an aura of invincibility, his huge frame becoming an impassable wall and the bedrock of much of United’s success.

He also developed a reputation for furiously bawling out his teammates when anyone scored against him — even if they were blameless.

The outbursts were always forgiven though, such was his talent, and in 1993 he played a vital part in United’s ending of their 26-year championship drought, the first of five league titles he was to win there.

A year earlier he had helped Denmark to their shock European championship victory, saving a penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against The Netherlands before the 2-1 final win over Germany.

Three FA Cups and a League Cup for United were also on the sideboard but his greatest moment came in 1999 in the famous Champions League triumph against Bayern Munich when he went up to cause mayhem at the last-minute corner that led to Teddy Sheringham’s equaliser.

He had scrambled back to the safety of his goal when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hit the winner a minute later.

Fittingly it was his last game in a United shirt as he moved in search of an easier life at Sporting Lisbon.

Instead of playing twice a week and training every day he was able to take rest days on the beach and nobody at Sporting complained as he helped them to their first Portuguese league title in 18 years in his first season.

A year later, having already retired from the international game after winning 129 caps, he was ready to call it a day completely.

However, an appearance in a friendly old boys’ match in the summer of 2001 forced him to reconsider.

“There was no spark in the game, it was just a social occasion, and I realised I wasn’t ready to give up the thrill of competition,” he said.

That led to a surprise return to the Premier League with Aston Villa but when John Gregory was replaced by Graham Taylor, the former England manager let him go and Keegan jumped at the chance to take him to Manchester City.

Schmeichel tore a knee ligament pre-season but, anxious to please his new club, he played before it had fully recovered. The result was a series of long, painful physiotherapy sessions and a season of struggle.

“Every morning it takes me an hour to get going... these days I need four or five parts of my body strapped up just to get through a training session,” he said.

“You’re supposed to be happy in your work. You’re supposed to wake up every morning and look forward to the challenges of the day. But now my body is not happy anymore. I always promised I’d move on when this moment arrived.”

He bows out with his reputation, if not his body, intact and has no regrets.

“My first career is over and I have to go out and find my next one,” he said. “If I can find one half as exciting as the one I’ve just let go, I’ll be the luckiest man in the world.”

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