Manchester United’s legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel knows what it takes for the club to reach the summit European summit. He was there in 1999 when they won the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, starting in goal in one of the most dramatic finals we’ve ever seen. The 57-year-old Danish shotstopper played for the club from 1991-1999 and is regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever play. Schmeichel won five Premier League titles and three FA Cups with United on top of the club’s second ever European crown.
Schmeichel, who now works on television and is part of CBS Sports’ coverage of the Champions League and Europe League on Paramount+, shared his thoughts on Sunday about the wild scenes outside of Old Trafford where fans invaded the pitch before the United-Liverpool game in protest of the ownership of the club. The match was postponed as a result. The club is owned by the Glazers, an American family who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League.
The protest came just two weeks after the club’s announced its intention to join the European Super League, which has since crumbled. Here’s what Schmeichel, who has long been a global ambassador of the club, had to say about the scene on Sunday, the future of the club and more.
Q: What were your initial reactions to Sunday’s incident?
A: First of all, I knew that there were going to be demonstrations before the game. I was with all of the fans. I think it was the right moment to express their feelings about what is happening at the club, the way the leadership it is taking it, the direction. And even though it is dead in the water, their opposition to the European Super League. That was only right. There was this peaceful demonstration, and then you had this younger group of fans in their 20s actually coming in through the Stretford End. This is where it kind of got a little bit wrong for me. I think the message was very important. Football is played for the fans. The fans should really have a voice and should be able to express their opinions. They haven’t been able to come to any matches for a very, very long time. And there was an opportunity. But then a very, very small group of fans actually spoiled it for the real message. I hope this is not what we are going to talk about in the time to come, the games to come, the fans entering Old Trafford. I think they got into the dressing room as well, which is one of the main reasons for the game to be postponed because they interfered with the COVID protocols. I hope the real message will be in the headlines that something needs to change. Something definitely needs to be changed.
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Q: What needs to be changed?
A: I think it is very complex. I don’t think there is one thing that needs to change. What is it now, 16 or 17 years ago when the family took over the club? It was winning the Premier League. It was in the semifinals and finals of the Champions League, winning the Champions League. Back then the training ground was brand new, state of the art. The stadium was fully developed and housing 75,000 people. Everything was good, but if you fast forward, it is still status quo. These are all the same things. Clubs like Leicester, sitting third in the league at the moment, they have probably the best training ground in the world. It’s a requirement. You need better facilities to attract players and also to develop players in the way that you want … You also need to attract better players. It’s not like the Glazer family hasn’t spent money, it’s just not spent in the right way. So it is something inside the club. It might be a lot of things, maybe not major, massive things, but definitely things that needs to be changed, tweaked and pointed in the right direction.
Q: Did you speak with [United manager] Ole Gunnar Solskjaer today?
A: No, I haven’t spoken to him. I think that he has more than enough on his plate. I think he kept very quiet today. Of course, he must have been extremely frustrated with this situation. Because obviously he is in between two semifinals. The result on Thursday [6-2 over Roma in the Europa League semifinal first leg], there is no guarantee, but it is as close to a guarantee that they will be in the final. They only have to go play a really solid game in Rome to be in there. So maybe, if ever something like this was supposed to happen, maybe this was the only good time, if you’d like. But can you imagine? He’s got this massive game. This is the biggest game in club football, individual game in club football in the world. It is where the most viewers are, it is where the most interest is. This is a massive game. It’s got the attention of…