Fabien Barthez wasn’t the greatest goalkeeper in Manchester United’s history – but he was certainly one of the craziest.
The Frenchman was United’s No.1 for three seasons in the early 2000s, helping the club win two Premier League titles in 2000/01 and 2002/03.
While he was a decent goalkeeper in his own right, he was also eccentric – willing to take risks with the ball. Something that didn’t always go down well with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
After making a mistake in the Champions League against Deportivo La Coruna in 2001, Fergie said: “I’ve been saying for a long time that eventually he will get caught out. He takes risk after risk and that is what happens. I don’t think we’ll see him do it again.”
But Barthez’s most daring adventure came at the end of the 2000/01 campaign at Old Trafford.
United had already won the title but were losing 1-0 to Derby in the closing minutes.
So Barthez decided to take matters into his own hands.
After collecting the ball in his penalty area, he decided to ignore his teammates and dribble the ball all the way into Derby’s half. However, his clipped pass towards Teddy Sheringham was slightly overhit and the ball went out for a goal kick.
While he didn’t exactly have to dribble past any Derby players, 99 per cent of other goalkeepers would have just rolled the ball to a teammate. Barthez backed himself to do it better.
But not Barthez. He was different.
VIDEO: Fabien Barthez dribbles into opposition’s half
One fan wrote: “What an assist that would’ve been if the guy he crossed it to scored.”
Another added: “Goalkeepers are known to be mental but fab took that sh*t to the next level.”
“Yeh goalkeepers should do that more often,” a third added.
He clearly fancied himself as a bit of a player and, a few months later, he was given the opportunity to play outfield for Man United.
It came in a pre-season friendly against Team Singapore.
“Calling me a goalkeeper is not enough because I do like to be involved in the game as much as possible,” Barthez once said. “I’m a player.”
“Other goalkeepers would play safety first,” Ferguson added. “Fabien had a wee bit more. He liked the excitement of taking care of the ball.
“I remember he kept telling me he was a better outfield player. He could play sometimes in Friday morning games before the Saturday game, in small-sided games. He had good feet.”
Barthez was given a 10-minute cameo during a 8-1 victory in the friendly but it was clear his best position was between the sticks – although he did nutmeg a defender.
🔴🧤 #OnThisDay in 2001: French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez came off the bench for Man Utd while they were winning 7-1, to fill in as a winger…
— The Sportsman (@TheSportsman) July 24, 2021
“He’s been pestering me for ages to let him do that. I just thank God he did not score because we never would have got him back in goal,” Fergie said afterwards.
“He’s very capable with the ball, no doubt about that. It was just a bit of fun for Fabien to give him that game because he has been going on about playing out.”
More goalkeepers like Barthez, please.
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