Slam Dunc

Peter Schmeichel keeps Everton's Duncan Ferguson at bay during the 1995 FA Cup final.

"An attacker might race through unchecked or meet a cross on the full but there was still this formidable 6ft 4ins barrier to overcome." -'s Adam Marshall

18/11/2013 16:26, Report by Adam Marshall
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Blog: Peter perfect

the planet in my mind. In the final against Germany, he was simply sensational.

But there was far more to shape my opinion of Schmeichel than individual feats or performances. I was fascinated to hear his background was in handball, a sport very popular in his native Scandinavia, and something he apparently played up until joining United.

Having watched some handball in the past, the goalkeeper's task seemed a thankless one. With outfield players permitted to hurl the ball with brute force, even from point-blank range, it did not appear a job for the weak-willed.

What it seemed to ingrain into Schmeichel was this belief that he may be able to stop anything that was, literally, thrown at him. With opponents restricted to using their feet in football, the odds rose in his favour and his mentality convinced him that the striker never held the upper hand in any personal duels.

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask former United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele for an insight into the so-called 'star-jump' technique employed by the Dane to such great effect at Old Trafford. "Peter's grounding was in handball," Steele explained. "That style is very Scandinavian, where they do play a lot of handball.

"Peter will tell you he did play it and that was his natural stance in how to defend the goal. You are not going to catch it in handball so there is no point expecting to take the ball like that. Hence, you make yourself as big as you can, which is what Peter did.

"Everyone talks about Peter's size but, in his prime, during his late 20s when he came to Manchester United, he was so quick. People didn't realise that but all of a sudden, bang, he would be out on top of people with his huge frame." 

I feel this was a key part of Schmeichel's make-up that made him so difficult to beat and contributed to his aura as a goalkeeping great. In my view, he is the best ever to don the gloves for United.

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