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Published: 18 April 2002

'GREAT DANE TAKES HIS RED NOSE TO A BLUE MOON'
by Red11 Statman Paul Hinson

Peter Schmeichels move from Aston Villa to Manchester City caused more than a few ripples in the city of Manchester. 3 years ago, with the Dane proudly holding up the European Cup as neighbours City lurched towards the oblivion of Division 2 of the Nationwide League, it would have been unthinkable.

But having sampled the gentler waters of Sporting Lisbon, earning a League Championship medal with his third different club, he decided that it was too soon to consider retirement. The English Premiership was the place to be, and Villa boss John Gregory snapped him up on a one-year deal. A change of manager and a change of home. Another challenge, to keep the yo-yo artists of Maine Road in the top flight, along with more top-name signings promised by the eternal optimist, Kevin Keegan.

Regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper to pull on a United shirt, Schmeichel joins a select band to play for both Manchester clubs. Some, like Billy Dale, Len Langford, Wyn Davies, John Gidman, Terry Cooke, simply crossed the 3 miles across the city.

Others have taken an indirect and more exotic route. Former City star Denis Law was suffering an unhappy time with Italian club Torino, when Matt Busby engineered a return to Manchester for him at the cost of 115,000, a large sum indeed in 1962. 11 years service and 236 goals later, Law was to return to the Blue fold and his goal at Old Trafford in April 1974 did not relegate United, as legend has it, but did rubberstamp his former employers demise to Division 2.

Brian Kidd scored in the 1968 European Cup Final and was a United fanatic from birth, but in 1977, 3 years after making his last appearance for the Reds, he moved from Arsenal to City and rattled in goals aplenty for his new club.

The biggest transfer drama came late in 1906. City, FA Cup winners 2 years previously, were found guilty of making illegal payments to their players, and the punishment meted out was severe. The guilty were banned from playing for the club again, and United stepped in to capitalise on their misfortune. Sandy Turnbull, Herbert Burgess, Jimmy Bannister and Billy Meredith, the Welsh wizard, the Ryan Giggs of his generation, switched their allegiances and the Reds were to win 2 League titles and one FA Cup within the next 4 years.

The former United clan at Maine Road is steadily growing. Shaun Goater and Jon Macken both left Old Trafford having failed to progress beyond the Reserves. Now they are part of the promotion party that has romped through the Nationwide Division One with goals and points galore this season. Until a week ago Terry Cooke, whose goal secured the FA Youth Cup in 1995, was also still on Citys books.

The rumour mill has suggested that Jaap Stam and Paul Ince are also on the shopping list. City have found it hard to recruit players of Stams status and quality, whereas the self-styled 'Guvnor' is out of contract in the summer and would possibly jump at the chance of staying in the Premiership for one last hurrah.

Not all former Reds are greeted with open arms. Irish International Sammy McIlroy played over 300 times for the Reds before moving to Stoke City in 1982. He subsequently appeared for a number of other clubs, including the Blues, where City supporters gave him a hard time for his previous United past. Perhaps they recalled him scoring on his United debut at Maine Road when just 17 years of age.

Surely the Dane, having won so many major honours in his time at Old Trafford, will not suffer the same negative reaction?

A clearly half-fit Andrei Kanchelskis spent an undistinguished period on loan at City in the 2000-01 campaign before drifting back to Glasgow Rangers, his electrifying pace in United colours a distant memory, but not his hat-trick against the Blues in 1994 in a 5-0 drubbing.......

Peter Beardsley will not look back on his spells in Manchester with any great pleasure. United and England winger Steve Coppell took the managers hotseat at Maine Road in 1996 but quit within a month! More successful was Herbert Bamlett, who after robbing the Blues of key players in 1906 and guiding the Reds to League and Cup glories, defected across town and made them into the top dogs of Manchester.

At least Peter will make more appearances than another Goalkeeper that signed for both clubs. Citys Tony Coton was bought by Alex Ferguson for 500,000 in 1995 as backup to the Dane, sat on the bench for 6 months and never made a senior appearance before moving on to Sunderland.

Another irony is that the Dane could have ended with another former United custodian, Alex Stepney, as his goalkeeping coach in Moss Side! Stepney was replaced by Peter Bonetti as Keegan restructured his coaching staff on his arrival last year.

Schmeichel made 11 appearances in 'Derby' matches without finishing on the losing side, keeping 4 clean sheets as United won 8 of them. Will that unbeaten record still be intact at the end of 2002-03?

Red11 StatMan Paul Hinson


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