One of the shortest Manchester United careers.
Massimo Taibi has recalled how Alex Ferguson begged him to stay at Manchester United despite the Italian goalkeeper making one of the most famous errors in Premier League history.
Taibi joined Manchester United in the summer of 1999 after Peter Schmeichel departed for Sporting Lisbon after helping the club win the treble that season.
At the time, United’s back-up goalkeepers Mark Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw were sidelined with injuries.
He made his United debut in a 3-2 win against Liverpool and he was awarded man-of-the-match due to a string of brilliant saves. However, one of those goals scored by Sami Hyypia saw Taibi flap at a cross which resulted in the big Finn scoring.
Any potential concerns around Taibi and his inclination to the odd gaffe here and there were well-founded in a clash with Southampton in September 1999 when he allowed a tame effort from Matt Le Tissier to squeeze through his legs and into the net.
Massimo Taibi: “Alex Ferguson begged me to wait.”
In an interview with American Gambler, Taibi recalls why he left the club after only four months in January. The Italian had family problems at the time and Taibi says how much he appreciated a suggestion from Alex Ferguson which would allow him to return home for two weeks to deal with the issues.
“Of course, it was 100% my decision to leave Manchester United. I had a four-year contract.
“I remember, for example, Teddy Sheringham who knew I had a serious family issue, asked me to stay. Even Sir Alex Ferguson begged me to wait, to go back to Italy for two weeks to try to resolve the issues and then come back to Manchester.
“They took me in so well and even now, 20 years later, I still live with the regret of having left in December due to family problems. I immediately regretted it. I should have stayed and worked on my family problems in England, and it’s the biggest regret of my footballing career.
“But in that moment, my family issues were just too big, so I decided that I had to leave – and that was my mistake. Because Ferguson and my team-mates helped me throughout my issue. In Italy, two weeks of holiday with that kind of human consideration that Sir Alex offered me, just doesn’t exist. I was just too impulsive.”
On that famous mistake against Southampton, Taibi is frustrated with how he has been labelled as one of the Premier League’s worst goalkeepers because of it.
“For me, that wasn’t a terrible error as such, certainly not something to label you with for life.
“It was just one of those things which happen to goalkeepers. I’ve seen plenty in England and Italy, believe me. Going through the legs, it looks ridiculous, but it happens often. It’s not the first, it wasn’t the last. I had a similar incident like that at Torino. It happens. It’s an accident, not an error. An error is to come out for the ball and miss it but an innocuous shot which goes through your legs is just a total accident.”
Taibi would go on to play professionally for another 10 years in Italy with the likes of Torino, Atalanta, Reggina and Ascoli.