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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Man United manager reflects on early days at the club

by Raj Dholakia
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

It’s been 25 years since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored his first goal at Manchester United.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the Norwegian reflected on his experiences as a player and the advice he received from teammates.

Solskjaer made his debut on August 25, 1996, against Blackburn Rovers. The article mentions United’s failed pursuit of Alan Shearer, who left Blackburn to join Newcastle United.

Instead, Sir Alex decided to sign Karel Poborsky, Jordi Cruyff, Ronny Johnsen and Solskjaer that summer.

The Norwegian stated: “I don’t think anyone expected anything from me”. “Nobody outside Norway, anyway.”

“In my first chat with Sir Alex, he said, ‘Well, we’ll give you the first six months in the reserves, and in the second half of the season, maybe you can join in with the first-team set-up and play some games.’ ”

United were trailing 2-1 with 26 minutes left when Sir Alex turned to his bench.

A super sub was born. Solskjaer replaced David May and scored six minutes after coming on.

“My first volley was not the best, but Tim Flowers just pushed the ball back to me, and the second one was a bit more clinical, ” claimed Solskjaer.

“I just remember turning, and Eric Cantona is the first one celebrating, coming towards you — and that’s when you realise you’ve done something great.”

“I’m happy I didn’t because the expectations that would have followed me would have made it harder. But with the goal, I think I had made a little statement to the gaffer: ‘I am more ready than you think.’”

The Norwegian started 25 of United’s remaining 35 Premier League games and finished as their leading scorer, with 19 goals in all competitions.

“I lived on cloud nine,” he said. “Every time we had a kick-off, it’s me and Eric, and Eric said, ‘You will score today. It will be easy for a good player like you.’ He was an unbelievable striking partner and an unbelievable mentor.”

“I still back myself as a finisher against anyone in the world from inside 20 yards. Still to this day, don’t worry about that,” Solskjaer said.

On being asked how he has changed in the last 25 years, he replied: “I think I’ve become a lot more confident as a person.”

“I got a hell of a lot more confidence through winning stuff at Man United, being successful, and learning how to stick up for yourself as a player.”

“That’s what it’s about here. You have to show you have a strong mental character. I couldn’t be the manager of Manchester United if I weren’t strong-minded.”

The Red Devils kicked off their 2021-22 Premier League campaign with a thumping 5-1- win over Leeds United.

Solskjaer was thrilled by the arrival of fans back at Old Trafford.

“ Leeds was fantastic, the perfect day. The fans were back in, and you have to understand that people will get carried away because it has been a hard 17 or 18 months for everyone.”

Despite a fantastic performance, he played down United’s title credentials.

“Two years ago we beat Chelsea 4-0, and there was loads of ‘Manchester United are ready’ and this, that and the other. I knew we weren’t ready.”

“You have to cut through the noise and focus on your performance. Reset after every game and be ready.”

Solskjaer has shown that he is determined to succeed at the club.

Showing gradual improvement every year since he took charge, the Norwegian will be eager to lead this United side to silverware this season.

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