“This scene was just ugly.”
Peter Schmeichel has recalled one of his most furious exchanges with Alex Ferguson which resulted in the then-Manchester United manager threatening to sack the goalkeeper.
The incident happened at Anfield in January 1994, when Liverpool launched an unlikely comeback to draw 3-3 with United.
Few things enraged Ferguson more than dropping points against Liverpool and he was not best pleased with Schmeichel’s performance in the second half.
The Danish ‘keeper took umbrage with that particular hairdryer session and bit back at Ferguson, which prompted a tense meeting in the Scot’s office two days later.
“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.
“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?’
Peter Schmeichel vs Alex Ferguson
“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.”
Schmeichel reflected on his behaviour after Ferguson’s furious dressing room dressing-down and took the opportunity to apologise to his teammates.
Unbeknownst to Schmeichel, Ferguson was stood outside the dressing room door and when he heard his goalkeeper’s apology, he rowed back on his sack threat.
“He tore into us in that dressing room on that Monday morning and then he left,” Schmeichel continued.
“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.’
“And this is something that my agent told me because 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.”
Ferguson had a reputation as a fiery manager who clashed with several players throughout his unprecedentedly successful spell at Old Trafford.
Schmeichel praised his former manager for being able to draw a line under disputes, however, and always focus on the next game after voicing his displeasure.
“He would go mad at times, like any other manager at the time, it was a normal thing for him,” Schmeichel said of Ferguson.
“It was a way for him to get it out of his system and once that was done, it was brilliant.
“I always give this example. We had four very bad games in a short period of time and three of them were consecutive. We lost 5-0 at Newcastle, we went to Southampton and lost 6-3 and then we lost to Chelsea 2-1 at home.
“In that Southampton game, we were 3-0 down at half-time. It was really bad and of course, he’s having words but it was nothing too bad. But then we lost 6-3 and he went absolutely berserk.
“The Dell had very, very small dressing rooms with thin walls. The whole stadium was small and I think everyone in the world could hear what he was saying.
“He went absolutely berserk and then he went away to do the press but he came back half an hour later, after having this incredible outburst, he was playing cards with the boys at the back of the bus. Not as if nothing happened but the game was gone and we couldn’t do anything about it.
“That was part of his genius.”