United legend Peter Schmeichel reveals the goalie he wanted the club to sign instead of David De Gea

Photo: Getty images

Manchester United Peter Schmeichel has revealed he wanted the club to sign Manuel Neuer instead of David de Gea, and certainly feels the German would have been perfect for the club.

Fergie turned to De Gea as his first-choice target and spent a then-record £18.9million to sign him from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011 after Edwin Van der Sar’s retirement.

Schmeichel initially believed Manchester United had made a mistake, but rates De Gea very highly.

“They knew it was so important to get it right [Van der Sar’s replacement] and not spend years chasing the situation,” Schmeichel told MUTV.

“At the time, I actually thought there was an obvious answer. You had to look at how we play and ask: right, where’s the guy that’s going to slot in? To me, we’d very recently seen the answer.

“I thought Manuel Neuer was a perfect fit for us.

“He’d just been up against United with Schalke in the Champions League and, even though Schalke lost the tie, he’d shown us precisely what he could do.

“He was a very aggressive goalkeeper. He played like I played. I played to my strengths. I knew where my weaknesses were and I tried desperately not to end up in situations where they might be exposed.

“I was always trying to get my defenders to protect me from that. I really liked the way Neuer played – it might be because I played like that myself – and to me, it felt like a natural move.

“He suited us well and we wouldn’t have had to change how we played.

“Of course, I knew about David De Gea because he was a young player already playing for Atletico Madrid’s first team, so you just knew he obviously had something special, but I didn’t think we’d be going for him.

“So when we did move for him, I honestly couldn’t understand why we’d gone down that route. I thought the experience of what had happened between me and Edwin would have been used, so it looked unusual to me.”

Despite his initial doubts, Schmeichel believes De Gea is a special goalkeeper. The Spaniard has largely impressed at Old Trafford and won the club’s Player of the Season award three times.

“He was so bad, according to the media. A huge mistake,” Schmeichel added. “But then he became so good, and I can tell you the moment that everything changed for David.

“It was at Stamford Bridge in his first season. We’d gone 3-0 down and fought back to 3-3, and then, right at the end of the game, he clawed away a free-kick from Juan Mata, right in the top corner, and saved a point for us right at the end.

“From that point on, I was looking at David and thinking, ‘this guy… he’s something special. This guy’s mentality is incredible. You can’t break him.’

“That’s how you need to be when you’re in goal for Manchester United. You have to be as strong as anything.

“Any little mistake is a headline tomorrow. If you can’t deal with that, then it’ll break you. David? He went to a really tough school and came out the other side, in no time at all really.

“I realised my thinking was wrong. And United were right. They’d done a really good job in bringing him to Manchester.”