Replacing a club legend is an unenviable task for any manager, but few have found their succession plans more difficult to get right than Manchester United and their bid to replace goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel.
Denmark international Schmeichel is widely regarded to be the best goalkeeper the Premier League has ever seen and formed an integral part of the United side that dominated English football during the 90s.
Sir Alex Ferguson took six years and a series of sub-par signings before finally signing Edwin van der Sar from Fulham, the Dutch veteran proving to be one of the shrewdest acquisitions in the club’s history after helping the Red Devils to four league titles and the Champions League.
Before that, however, was a less than stellar collection of ‘keepers who failed to make the position their own, here are our ratings of the five Manchester United goalkeepers who failed to replace Schmeichel:
Bosnich was allowed to leave Manchester United as a young goalkeeper before returning as Schemichel’s initial replacement, the Australian having impressed during a seven-year spell at divisional rivals Aston Villa.
The goalkeeper made 23 league appearances during a debut season that saw the Red Devils win the Premier League by a record margin, though despite that success Ferguson remained unconvinced by a player he later described in his autobiography as a ‘terrible professional’.
That season proved to be Bosnich’s only as a regular at Old Trafford, leaving for Chelsea in January 2001 after finding himself as third-choice behind new signing Fabien Barthez and the experienced Raimond van der Gouw.
His contract was later terminated by the west London side after well-documented off the field issues.
Many goalkeepers have made high-profile blunders throughout the Premier League era, but perhaps no shot-stopper has ever seen their struggles remain as infamous as Massimo Taibi.
The Italian signed for the club in a £4.5m deal following the departure of Schmeichel to Sporting Lisbon, where he would make just four league appearances – be dubbed ‘The Blind Venetian’ by newspapers – before packing his bags and heading back to his homeland.
A Man of the Match debut against Liverpool proved nothing more than a false dawn, his four games including a catastrophic howler against Southampton and a 5-0 thrashing at Chelsea.
After the calamities of the aforementioned duo, Ferguson must have thought he was onto a sure thing after securing the signing of World Cup and European Championship winner Fabien Barthez from Monaco.
The Frenchman arrived shortly after helping his nation to success in the latter tournament, though his performances often combined the sublime with the ridiculous despite the fans warming to his eccentric style.
Barthez helped United to the Premier League title during his debut season, producing some superb saves and displaying an air of arrogance with the ball at his feet, often taunting opposition strikers with step-overs and dribbles – a style not often seen from goalkeepers in the English game.
That style, however, also led to some high-profile mistakes, including two howlers in a home defeat to Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions League. Amongst his other gaffes included his bizarre – and costly – attempt to con Paulo Di Canio into thinking he was offside during an FA Cup defeat to West Ham, and his kick-out at Leeds’ Ian Harte in the penalty area, only to save the resulting penalty.
Penalties were perhaps his greatest stage, as he revelled in the mind-games against opposition forwards, often waiting as long as possible before setting himself in goal. He never quite recovered from a second season littered with errors, however, despite winning a second league title before his departure to former side Marseille in January 2004.
Roy Carroll arrived from Wigan Athletic to provide competition for the aforementioned Barthez and despite spending four years at Old Trafford, never truly established himself as the club’s number one despite extended runs of games.
The Northern Irishman’s time at the club delivered both Premier League and FA Cup success, though he was largely a bit-part role in both triumphs. Carroll’s greatest notoriety came after spilling a speculative effort from the half-way line by Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes, the goalkeeper’s blushes spared after the officials somehow failed to spot the ball had comfortably crossed the goal-line.
Carroll left for West Ham on a free transfer in 2005, later having spells at the likes of Rangers, Derby County and Olympiakos.
Hopes were high that American Tim Howard could solve United’s goalkeeping woes following the arrival of the athletic shot-stopper from MLS, and the new signing started impressively in his new surroundings by saving the decisive spot-kick as the Red Devils beat Arsenal on penalties in the Community Shield.
Howard’s first season at the club saw him show promise but a costly blunder – parrying a late free-kick to allow Jose Mourinho’s Porto to snatch a last-minute equaliser and eliminate United from the Champions League – saw his confidence shattered.
The US international never recovered from that mistake and was soon replaced by the aforementioned Carroll, leaving for Everton where he spent a decade and thrived away from the pressures of the Old Trafford spotlight.