When goalkeeper Mark Bosnich was signed by Manchester United from Aston Villa during the 1999 close season as successor to Peter Schmeichel, a career that had originally commenced at Old Trafford for a 16 year old kid from Sydney, appeared to have completed a full circle. In less than 3 years however, at the age of 29, he was on the scrapheap, his career destroyed when it should have been at its prime!
So what happened in the short time he was at United during which he picked up a Premier League medal in the1999-2000 championship winning season as well as playing a key role in Manchester United becoming the first English club to win the Toyota World Club Cup against Brazil’s Palmeiras in Tokyo? The short answer is a hell of a lot, most of which he brought onto himself.
Not all of it mind you, club politics are reported to have played a significant part in Bozza’s downward spiral. A part of the problem went all the way back to the 1990-91 season by which time he had made 3 appearances in the old First Division. The story goes that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted the Aussie to be part of a part exchange deal that brought Peter Schmeichel to Old Trafford but Bosnich point blank refused to go to Denmark. Before he knew it, he was back in Australia as a free agent having learned that denying Fergie what he wants does nothing to help your career prospects.
Obtaining a British working visa was also proving difficult but once that was sorted out Bosnich was picked up by Aston Villa on a free transfer in February 1992. Two years later he was standing between the posts at Wembley in the Villa side which defeated Manchester United in the 1993-94 League Cup final.
Bosnich spent 7 good years at Villa Park and by the time he ran down his contract at the end of 1998-99 had a number of Bosman type free transfer offers from various clubs including AS Roma and Juventus. Ferguson was searching for Schmeichels replacement at that time but was not keen on Bosnich as he had not forgotten the time when the keeper refused to be part of the Schmeichel transfer.
It was later reported that Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards had made an agreement with the Australian that once his contract at Villa expired, he would be signed by United even though Ferguson had a strong preference for France World Cup winning keeper Fabian Barthez. Edwards got his way in the end however with Ferguson having to honour his chairmans agreement.
Bosnich suffered a couple of injury setbacks early in his first season back at Old Trafford and with second keeper Raimond van der Gouw also not fully fit, Sir Alex splashed out £4.4 million to bring in Italian Massimo Taibi from Venezia. A decent debut against Liverpool was followed by horrendous clangers against both Southampton and Chelsea. Taibi ended his short career at Old Trafford after only four appearances before Bosnich was back in the side.
His best performance for the club was undoubtedly in Tokyo where he kept a clean sheet with some breathtaking saves against Palmeiras but by the end of a season in which United comfortably retained its Premier League title, Ferguson was finally able to sign Barthez during the summer.
Bosnich was never able to get back into the first team ahead of the Frenchman, forcing him to sign for Chelsea on a free transfer in January 2001 which proved to be the first step in a disastrous, downward spiral which culminated in him failing a drug test early in the 2002-03 season, sacked by Chelsea and banned from all football for nine months.
The bright lights of London and its good life had taken their toll on a potentially great keeper, still not yet 30 years of age and who at one stage appeared to have the world at his feet. Despite a couple of half hearted comeback attempts in both England and Australia to resume his career, the necessary desire seemed to have deserted him.
Always a very articulate young man, Bosnich has forged a successful career for himself as one of the most respected football commentators on Australian television. He may no longer be prepared to put in the hard yards on a training pitch but Bozza still has the same appetite for the game as he did as a 16 year old kid on that first lonely journey to Manchester.
What did you rate Bosnich as a United keeper?