Few appreciate the pressures of life as a goalkeeper at Manchester United better than Peter Schmeichel.
Schmeichel spent eight years between the sticks for United and remains tightly connected with the club.
It is hardly unsurprising, then, that The Great Dane has held strong opinions on who is deserving to serve as the last line of defence for the Red Devils since his departure.
Having witnessed how United struggled to replace his own abilities in goal since he left Old Trafford in 1999, Schmeichel kept a keen eye on how his club would manage to find a worthy replacement for Edwin van der Sar when he retired in 2011.
Schmeichel was aware of David De Gea but at the time, he believed that United would have been better served going for German ‘keeper, Manuel Neuer.
“I thought Manuel Neuer was a perfect fit for us,” Schmeichel told Utd Unscripted.
“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.
“Of course, 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 referenced De Gea’s rocky start to Premier League life but acknowledged how the Spanish stopper turned his fortunes around and solidified himself as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world.
In fact, Schmeichel is even able to identify the moment that he realised he was wrong about De Gea.
Schmeichel continued: “He became so good, and I can tell you the moment that everything changed for David.
“It was at Stamford Bridge in his first season. We’d gone 3-0 down and fought back to 3-3, and then, right at the end of the game, he clawed away a free-kick from Juan Mata, right in the top corner, and saved a point for us right at the end.
“From that point on, I was looking at David and thinking: this guy… he’s something special.
“This guy’s mentality is incredible.
“You can’t break him.
“That’s how you need to be when you’re in goal for Manchester United. You have to be as strong as anything. Any little mistake is a headline tomorrow. If you can’t deal with that, then it’ll break you.
“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.”