“It was a bad piece of business.”
Man United’s search for a successor to Schmeichel.
When Edwin van der Sar arrived at Old Trafford from Fulham in 2005, Man United finally had a world-class goalkeeper again.
But in the intervening years, Alex Ferguson went through a succession of mostly sub-par successors to Schmeichel, who left for Sporting Lisbon following the club’s Treble victory in 1999.
From Fabien Barthez, a World Cup winner with France, to Tim Howard, who went on to become an established Premier League goalkeeper with Everton, Man United struggled to find someone to properly replace Schmeichel until Van der Sar joined the club.
Mark Bosnich at Man United.
Mark Bosnich, the goalkeeper originally signed to replace the Dane, was, arguably, one of the least-successful ‘keepers to arrived in the post-Schmeichel era.
Bosnich had played three times for Man United in the 1989/90 season and the 1990/91 campaign but left the club as he couldn’t secure a work permit.
When the Australian returned at the end of the 1990s, on a free transfer from Aston Villa, he was meant to be the club’s established number one goalkeeper. However, it didn’t go to plan.
Ferguson’s doubts about Bosnich.
Bosnich spent a season and a half at Man United, before leaving for Chelsea in January 2001, and only played 35 times. He didn’t feature at all in his second season with the club.
Ferguson would later claim that he tried to pull out of the deal to sign Bosnich and that the goalkeeper was ‘a terrible professional.’
“Mark Bosnich was, in my opinion, a terrible professional, which we should have known,” Ferguson wrote in his second autobiography.
“The Bosnich buy stemmed from Peter Schmeichel announcing in the autumn of his final season that he would be retiring, which caught us on the hop. We jumped into decisions.
“We met Bosnich in January, despite reports filtering through to us about his conduct off the pitch. I sent someone down to watch him in training.
“He was doing nothing in the sessions that convinced me he was the right man for Manchester United.”
Man United try to sign Van der Sar.
Ferguson says that he tried to sign Van der Sar from Ajax to replace Schmeichel.
However, Martin Edwards, the former Man United chairman, had already agreed on a deal with Bosnich. Van der Sar would join Juventus that same summer.
“I changed tack and went for Edwin van der Sar instead, spoke to his agent and then to Martin Edwards, who told me, ‘Alex, I’m sorry, I’ve shaken hands with Bosnich’” Ferguson writes.
“That was a blow. Martin had shaken Mark’s hand and would not go back on his word, which I respect. But it was a bad piece of business.”
“Bosnich was a problem. His training and fitness levels were below what we needed.”
Ferguson says that he and the Man United coaching staff and players pushed Bosnich to reach higher standards in his first season, but, ultimately, he could not get through to the Australian goalkeeper.
“Bosnich was a problem. His training and fitness levels were below what we needed,” the Scot said.
“We pushed him to a higher tier and felt we did quite well with him. He was terrific in our victory over Palmeiras in the Intercontinental Cup, in which he ought to have been man of the match, ahead of Giggs.
“Not much later, we played down at Wimbledon in February, and Bosnich was tucking into everything: sandwiches, soups, steaks. He was going through the menu, eating like a horse.”
I told him: ‘For Christ’s sake, Mark, we’ve got the weight off you, why are you tucking into all that stuff?’
“‘I’m starving, gaffer,’ he said.
“We arrived back in Manchester, and Mark was on a mobile phone to a Chinese restaurant to order a takeaway.
“‘Is there no end to you?’ I asked him. ‘Think what you’re doing.’
“I just couldn’t make an impact on him.”
“He’s always said that he doesn’t bear any grudges, but obviously he does.”
Bosnich would later that say that Ferguson’s account of his time at Old Trafford was ‘a lie.’
“It wasn’t unfair – it was just a lie,” Bosnich told Four Four Two.
“He’s always said that he doesn’t bear any grudges, but obviously he does.
“But he can say that because he knows what happened afterwards, with the drugs and so on – he’s got good evidence to back himself up. At that time, though, it was a lie. Alex Ferguson signed me twice.
“I wouldn’t be talking to you now about my career unless he had taken a chance on me originally. Yes, we had a falling out, but these things happen. He was a great manager to play under.”
Bosnich after Man United.
Bosnich’s career hit rock bottom at Chelsea. Due to fitness issues, and competition for the starting spot at the club, the former Villa ‘keeper only made five appearances for the London club.
In 2002, Bosnich failed a drug test. He was banned from football for nine months and sacked by Chelsea. Bosnich said that his drink had been spiked. Other than making a brief comeback in the A-League in 2008, he never played professional football again.
Regardless of whether you believe Ferguson’s account of Bosnich’s time at Old Trafford, or Bosnich’s version, it simply didn’t work out for the goalkeeper at Old Trafford.
Keane on Mark Bosnich at Man United.
According to Roy Keane, the former Man United captain, it was clear from day one that the Australian was not going to be a success at the club.
“Bosnich was a likeable character. You could write a book about him. A gifted keeper, Bosy didn’t exactly seem the most dedicated pro,” Keane said in his first autobiography.
“He arrived an hour late for training on his first day. The manager was away somewhere. When Bosy strolled out around eleven o’clock, I asked him where he’d been.
“’I got lost on the way from the hotel,’ he smirked. He was a bit of a smirker.
“’Got fucking lost?’ I sneered.
“’Yes, mate,’ said bosy.
“’Your first fucking day at Manchester United and you turn up an hour late for fucking training?’ I said.
Keane contrasted Bosnich’s first day at Man United with his own when he arrived an hour early.
“The little things matter, usually betraying an attitude to the job,’ he writes.
“In this instance, the signings were telling. I gave him a bollocking to wake him up, to let him know what was expected of a Manchester United player.”
Keane said that, while he liked Bosnich off the pitch, the Australian ‘never got the message’.
Read Next – Alex Ferguson on ‘one of the most disappointing signings’ of his Manchester United career.
(Originally published on July 8, 2020).