Feature

Game Changers: Peter Schmeichel

MIchael Cox 5 Oct 2017
Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel

In the first of a five-part series on players who revolutionised tactics in the Premier League, Michael Cox explains how the 'Great Dane' helped take goalkeeping to a new level

In the first of a five-part series on players who shaped the Premier League, adapted from his book, "The Mixer", Michael Cox looks at the impact made by Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

The advent of the Premier League in 1992 coincided with the most seismic rule change football had witnessed for decades – the introduction of the backpass law.

Previously, teams had been able to waste time infuriatingly by knocking the ball around in defence, playing it back to the goalkeeper, who would pick it up, then restart the process.

Indeed, one of the biggest culprits was Schmeichel, who had helped Denmark to a shock Euro '92 success thanks, in part, to this tactic.

"How can you win football matches like that?" Schmeichel sheepishly admitted years later.

The backpass law meant that approach was no longer possible and therefore goalkeepers were the centre of attention in the opening weeks of 1992/93, with plenty of kicking errors.

CC

At this point, Schmeichel was the Premier League's dominant goalkeeper, arguably the best in the world, and with backpass change on the horizon, he requested that he take part with the outfielders' passing drills in training, effectively becoming an 11th outfielder rather than an outsider.

Schmeichel wasn't necessarily the most reliable goalkeeper with his feet, but he truly took the goalkeeping role in a different direction.

His long-range overarm throws launched counter-attacks quickly - just as his son Kasper would do for Leicester City many years later - effectively turning him into a playmaker.

He was also the first goalkeeper to routinely charge down the pitch to challenge for corners in the dying minutes when Manchester United were losing, scoring in the UEFA Cup against Rotor Volgograd, and having a spectacular bicycle kick disallowed against Wimbledon in an FA Cup tie, too.

Schmeichel was also, of course, a brilliant 'keeper in a traditional sense - his star-jump saves were another innovation.

But he helped the goalkeeper to become more than a mere goalkeeper, and therefore ranks as the Premier League's first great innovator.

See: Michael Cox's The Mixer

Also in this series

Part 2: Eric Cantona

Part 3: Nicolas Anelka

Part 4: Claude Makelele

Part 5: Cristiano Ronaldo

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