Reds legend Peter Schmeichel says remaining part of Manchester United as an ambassador is the perfect way to continue his association with football and the club he adores.
The former goalkeeper is one of a handful of ex-players who represent the club in an official ambassadorial capacity at various partner events in Manchester and across the world. And during a recent appearance for principal sponsors Aon, the Dane explained how much he cherishes the role.
“It’s been over 14 years since I left as a player but United have always been in my heart and always will be,” he explained. “I’ve been back many times, popping into the Aon Training Complex and watching games at Old Trafford, but there is a purpose to me being here now and it’s something I really enjoy. I feel very honoured and very proud to be able to travel the world representing the club and it’s a role that keeps me pretty busy.
“The club has got even bigger than I ever imagined it could be. When I first arrived [in 1991] it was a big club in England and across the world, but it wasn’t the huge institution it is today. It’s quite incredible to see how big it has become. I see that first hand in my role as an ambassador at various events for partners such as Aon. So many people know the club and the players, but they don’t just know about the likes of Rooney and van Persie, they know everything about the club, even the very smallest of details. When you travel to events for the club in say, Vietnam, there can be 500 to 1,000 people waiting for you at the airport or the event you’re attending. I don’t think any other club in the world has that kind of power.”
Schmeichel cites the unprecedented Treble triumph during the 1998/99 season as the turning point in the club’s history from being the biggest club in England to becoming the global force it is today.
“The history of the club has made it so big,” continues Peter. “We had a manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] who put the wheels in motion for so many things at the club, like the youth system for example and we saw the rewards of that over the years. And we started to win trophies. That’s what we consistently did under Sir Alex. We continued to write history. We won the first ever Premier League [in 1993]. Then we won the Double [in 1994], then the Double Double [in 1996] and then the Treble [in 1999]. It was an incredible time. And all that helped the football club grow into the biggest in the world.
“The unique thing about United is the family environment around the club. I felt that when I was here and I still feel it now,” he added. “When I was a player here I used to come to Old Trafford every day and sit with Kath [Phipps] in reception and go through all my mail. Sometimes for a laugh I would even answer the phones now and again! I knew everyone who worked here too, at the training ground, in the kitchens, in the laundry room…it was a small club at that point really. It has maintained that family feel yet still grown into the biggest club in the world.
“The 1998/99 season changed everything. Virtually everyone I have spoken to since then always wants to talk about that season and our achievements. That was the point where everything changed for the club. And it has gathered even more speed since then in terms of how it has grown on and off the field.”
And for Schmeichel, maintaining a close association with the Reds is essentially the next best thing to playing here.
“You don’t realise how good a job it is to be a player until you finish,” he insists. “It is hard work though. Yes, players get paid a lot of money, but you have to work very hard to get to the level you need to be at as a player for Manchester United. You have to put everything into your performances. And mentally you have to be so strong. You have to be like that 365 days of the year. It’s an incredible privilege to play for this club, and as I said before it’s only when you retire that you realise how good a job it is. You long to play again for a while afterwards. Fortunately for me I felt ready to retire at the time I did, and now I don’t have that urge to play like I did when I first finished. But the association with football remains very important to me and particularly with United. That’s why I feel very proud to be here as an ambassador. This is the club I have loved since I was a young boy and I am so grateful to still be involved.”
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