“He could be a pain in the ass.”
During the trophy-laden golden era of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, Peter Schmeichel was seen as largely unimpeachable.
The imposing Dane, signed from Brondby in 1991, established himself as one of English football’s greatest stoppers during his time at Old Trafford.
Schmeichel made 398 appearances for United and wore the captain’s armband on the club’s greatest-ever night, the 1999 Champions League final.
Playing second-fiddle to such a towering figure would not have been easy, but one man who knows all about it is Raimond van der Gouw.
The Dutchman joined United in 1996 and spent much of his six years at the club as Schmeichel’s deputy, playing just a handful of games during his first three seasons in Manchester.
And as he explained on the latest Manchester United podcast, Van der Gouw has somewhat mixed feelings about Schmeichel.
Van der Gouw on Schmeichel.
“It was sometimes very good and sometimes I hated him,” said a laughing Van der Gouw.
“He could be a pain in the ass. From the other side, I respected him and a lot of the time he was a very good colleague.
“Of course, he was a lot of the time selfish. I was just happy to be there and I was really curious how he was as a sportsman, as a goalkeeper, what kind of work he was doing, if he was he a really hard worker, was it only the talented and gifts or was it something else?
“This was my opportunity to see that with my own eyes. Everyone can talk about it, but you have to see it and you have to feel it.”
Van der Gouw admits that, at times, he grew frustrated with Schmeichel’s insistence on playing every game.
“I think Peter was good for me. I can’t complain about it,” added the 58-year-old, who hade 61 appearances for United.
“Of course, he was looking after himself and of course he wanted to play a lot of games. And a lot of times, I was thinking ‘Peter, come on, you are injured, why don’t you just give me a few games?’ I was thinking, ‘I am not, you know, going to stab you in the back. I am a sportsman, I am fair, I am realistic and not crazy’.
“I remember we played one game against Wimbledon away, he had a hamstring injury and he couldn’t kick with his right foot, and he played and kicked all of the balls with his left. It was terrible, so I felt the manager should have played me. But, you know, that is afterwards.
I think you are never too old to learn and you always can learn. When you are young you have your dreams and there is a certain way of training, but when you are 32 you always can learn because that is experience. What I learned from Peter, I liked his determination, his will to win and he wanted to play all of the games.