Peter Schmeichel believes the current Manchester United FC squad can succeed where the 1999 team failed and build on their UEFA Champions League victory as the new European season begins in earnest next week.
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Peter Schmeichel believes the current Manchester United FC squad can succeed where the 1999 team failed and build on their UEFA Champions League victory as the new European season begins in earnest.
The former Danish international played his last game for the club against FC Bayern München in Barcelona nine years ago, when added-time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær took the European Champion Clubs' Cup to Old Trafford for the second time. United were unable to add to their Camp Nou success, however, reaching only one more semi-final before last season yet, having overcome Chelsea FC in May, Schmeichel does not expect the 2008 squad to suffer a similar fate. "There's so many years ahead of us – whatever we want to achieve, it's there," he told uefa.com. "We still have to play at our top level and give our best, but the potential in this team is great.
Best to come
"We've come up short a few times; we simply haven't been good enough," he added. "In key situations, it just hadn't happened for us, because we were lacking one element. Last season everything was there; we had the right players, the right blend of flair, muscle and tactical skills. I have great expectations for this year as well. The last team I played in won the Champions League, but that team came to an end. I left – the last game I played was the Champions League final – and then Jaap Stam went, and Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke went, and players didn't stay for a long time after. But this team has young players."
With the likes of Wayne Rooney, Anderson, Nani, Carlos Tévez and Cristiano Ronaldo in their early 20s, there is every reason for optimism at Old Trafford. The latter may have captured most of the headlines last season with 42 goals in all competitions and eight in the UEFA Champions League, but Schmeichel believes United's team ethic is their biggest strength. "We've always recognised Ronaldo as a big talent and the reason he had such a great season was down to his talent. He trained so hard, he's mentally strong and he wants to be the best player in the world. But you can be the best player in the world and play in the worst team and you'll get nowhere. He plays in a great team who provided the platform for him to go out and express himself and be the player that he always wanted to be. I don't think many teams could have provided that."
Van der Sar praise
Another key factor for United has been the form of the man who has finally filled Schmeichel's sizeable shoes between the posts, Edwin van der Sar. "It took far too long for him to arrive at United but eventually he did, and that's the best thing that could have happened," Schmeichel said. "You had all the talent; all the defenders and the spine of the team were there, but it was missing a good goalkeeper. And he is there now and you can just see what his presence has done to the club. Suddenly Rio Ferdinand is possibly the best defender in the world. I don't think he would have got there had he not had a goalkeeper like Van der Sar behind him. Nemanja Vidić has impressed me so much and the relationship the three of them have now is a major factor in what they achieved last season. Van der Sar has given United the edge again."