Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

'I Do Not Remember How That Mistake Happened'

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

'I Do Not Remember How That Mistake Happened'

Article excerpt

HOW do you solve a problem like Peter Schmeichel? Just months after the Great Dane left United in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson thought he found the answer.

It came down to two names: Fiorentina's Francesco Toldo and one Massimo Taibi.

In an era before YouTube, little was known about Taibi - a tracksuit bottom-wearing shot-stopper playing at mid-table Venezia.

What swung it for Fergie, though, was the gut instinct of his brother, Martin, who felt the 29-year-old was a snip at Pounds 4.5m after scouting him at the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo.

Despite spending his whole life in Italy, Taibi did not think twice about joining the European champions.

"I left Italy in 1999 because I could not turn down a club as great as Manchester United," the Italian told M.E.N Sport. "I did not know Sir Alex Ferguson well other than I knew he wanted to sign me. I think I only met him once beforehand.

"It was a good experience and a fantastic stadium. I liked the United fans."

Taibi made his debut just a week after signing when the Reds visited Anfield to take on Liverpool without the injured Mark Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw.

Parachuted into a leaky defence, which had kept just two clean sheets in eight games, the odds were stacked against Taibi - particularly when he could not speak English.

Recognising this, United's goaltian, keeping coach Tony Coton got in touch with an Italian restaurant owner in Manchester to act as pitchside translator to fire instructions at Taibi. It was a different era. Despite an early clanger, Taibi had an impressive debut in the 3-2 win - making a number of point-blank saves after United went down to 10 men in the second half.

"It was hard to replace Schmeichel and there was so much pressure on me," he remembers.

"But my debut against Liverpool was a great memory. It was a beautiful game as I won man of the match."

Taibi followed that up with another man-of-the-match display on his home debut against a rugged Wimbledon side at Old Trafford, but he wasn't registered to play in European competition that season. …

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