Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed on a temporary basis on Wednesday after Jose Mourinho’s dismissal from the club earlier this week.
The 45-year-old will take charge of Manchester United until the end of the season, at which point he is expected to return to Molde in his native Norway.
In his first interview since accepting the role, Solskjaer told United’s in-house media channel MUTV that every player will be given the opportunity to prove their worth under his reign.
Read Solskjaer’s MUTV interview in full:
First of all welcome back, It’s great to see you. How does it feel to be back?
Thanks, first of all. It’s great. It feels like coming home I have to say. It’s been a few whirlwind days of course. It’s been very hectic but just great to see everyone again.
You’re obviously caretaker for the rest of this season. Do you feel that you can make your mark in that time?
Well, it’s six months and I’m going to enjoy the ride. I’m back home if you like. It’s about seeing the players, seeing the staff. It’s about just being myself. I know the club’s now running a process to find the next manager so I’m just going to be myself in the meantime with Mick [Phelan] of course, and Kieran [McKenna] and Michael [Carrick] and the rest of the staff. We’ll just get the players enjoying their football and look forward to seeing the supporters again.
You’re arriving in what is an incredibly hectic time with four games in 11 days. Does this give you the perfect opportunity to really throw yourself into the role and get to know all of the players?
You certainly get to see the players in a game, in a pressure situation. But I think the number of games coming up is no problem because there is an amazing squad of players. We’ve got 23 or 24-odd players who are all quality and who will all get a chance now because of the number of games coming up. They’ve got a chance to show that they’re Man United players.
You know some of the players anyway so is it a case of just getting to know them pretty quickly?
Yes, of course. We’re in a results business and we want to win games. That’s our job – mine, Mick, the staff’s job – to help the players to do. We just want to see them play the football they can do.
With so many games in such a short amount of time, does it give you any chance to scout the opposition or is that going to be the job of the likes of Michael [Carrick], Kieran McKenna and the analysts here?
We’ve got a great set-up at the club with all the analysts. When I came in this morning all they were watching Cardiff. Of course, I watch the Premier League. I’ve seen all the teams. I’ve got a little bit of a view on them but it’s not about the opposition. It’s about us. It’s about Man United. It’s about our players knowing what they can do. We want to see them express themselves. My main focus, of course, will be on us, how we want the team to play, and then we’ll give them one or two details about the opposition.
Was this a period that you used to enjoy playing in when you’ve got all these games every couple of days over the festive spell?
Playing games is the best time of your life and the more games you get, the better it is. For me as a manager now it’s great because you have to rotate so you get to see many players. You’ll get the chance and everyone in the squad knows that they’ve got a chance now because whatever’s happened has happened. Everyone starts with a clean slate and we want players to perform and given a chance.
So it’s a blank piece of paper for everyone?
Well, you’ve got to start somewhere. Of course, you look at a couple of performances, I’ve seen the last few games, you look at the merits. You pick a team now and then you move on and they’ll all get chances.
Your first game is this weekend away from home but then on Boxing Day, it’s Old Trafford. How excited are you about the prospect of leading Manchester United out at Old Trafford, where you are loved by supporters?
Yeah, how long will that last?! As a player I gave everything I had and now walking out, leading the team, just being part of this team. That’s what I am, part of this huge team. We’re playing for the supporters, playing for our pride, playing for the club’s history. But to be honest it’s going to be very special, I have to say. I’m good at controlling the emotions so I won’t be that emotional but when I came back with Cardiff a few years ago in 2014 – Juan [Mata]’s debut by the way – it was a strange, strange feeling. One of the most surreal feeling I’ve had, being on the other side. Now I’m on the right side and I can’t wait for it.
I’m sure it will be a pride for you and a proud moment for your family. You’re the man!
It will be, but it’s not about my pride. I’m proud of my career as a player. I feel like I’m part of this club. I know the club, I’m part of this club but of course being on the gaffer’s seat is very special.
What’s the first match that springs to mind in your playing career when you think of Old Trafford?
Wow. Many, many. I can’t just talk about one. But of course my debut. When I came on and scored. I turned around and Eric [Cantona] is the first one celebrating with me. It’s a strange, strange feeling but suddenly it became part of you. It’s home. You looked forward to coming out at Old Trafford; you felt comfortable there. And that’s what you want the players to be. That’s how I want to feel now. I think I’ll feel at home when we go out there. I think it’s about having the players proud of their performance and the supporters proud when we go off the pitch.
Did it feel like home when you arrived here?
It does, I must say. There are so many people here who are still here from when I was a player and a coach in the reserves and I brought some Norwegian chocolate for them so I think they’re happy.
You’ve been a manager now for the best part of a decade – reserve team coach, Molde, Cardiff and back to Molde again – how do you feel that your style as a manager has evolved in the last decade?
Time flies when you enjoy it. I think I’ve had 300-400 first-team games now as a manager. I’ve got the reserves. For ten years more or less I’ve been coaching a team and you become more and more confident, of course. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn. I’ve made a few mistakes through the years but I’ve won the league, I’ve won cups, I’ve been relegated so I feel I’m getting to know the occupation. But it’s about man-management, it’s about managing the players, managing people, managing the staff, talking to everyone, getting the best out of everyone. I have to say, I had the best as a teacher. The boss [Sir Alex Ferguson] is and always will be the best at how you manage people. Loads of my management revolves around what I learned from him.
If you had to describe your managerial style now, you would bring in Sir Alex as a big influence?
Yeah. He’s been the biggest influence but then again we’re different. I’m a different personality. I’ve just got to be myself. You’d have to ask the people I’ve managed. I like people, I like to speak to people, engage with people. I want to see them express themselves, whether it’s working in the canteen, being a masseur, a physio, a player, a coach. You just want to see everyone express themselves. That makes me happy. When your team plays well, you know you are expressing yourselves.
Mike Phelan is back. What qualities will he bring to your set-up?
Well, that was the first thing I thought about because I’m young-ish here still, Kieran [McKenna] and Michael [Carrick] young, and I thought I want some experience with me. I rang Mick but he was doing a coaching course up in Burnley so I couldn’t get hold of him until what must have been three or four o’clock in the afternoon. I’d got the phone call earlier in the morning so it’s one of those hectic ones. He’s been here, he’s done it all, he’s worked with the gaffer more closely than I have. He’s an incredible calming influence around me and his football knowledge is really, really good.
Michael Carrick is also on the coaching staff and you both came off the bench when he made his debut against Charlton in 2006. What’s it like to be working with him now?
It’s strange. When he was signed of course I played with him for a season. Then I was a coach in the first team and then the reserves. I watched Michael evolve and develop. He’s been a top, top player for us. He filled Roy Keane’s boots. It’s not easy, coming in and taking his number. To be honest, the last couple of days when I was at home. No, last night, Wednesday, I’d been on the phone with Michael quite a few times and he’s been brilliant and I’m looking forward to working with him.
Just a word on that match, when he made his debut, you scored on your return from injury…
That was that match! It was rainy. I actually had the captain’s armband when I came on and scored a goal. Louis [Saha] passed me the ball. I didn’t remember that it was that exact game. He came in and we had three years without winning a trophy: 03-04, 04-05, 05-06. We didn’t win the league in those three years. He came in and we won the league in 06-07. He knows what it’s about being a Man United player, being a winner. We’ve got to get used to winning again and challenging for trophies.
Another member of the coaching team, Kieran McKenna, like you he graduated from the academy coaching set-up. Have you kept an eye on some of the young players coming through the system?
Yeah, I have done. I’ve always been interested and of course being a manager at Molde in Norway, that range of players I’ve been trying with Nicky [Butt] a couple of times to get players on loan over to Molde. So yes, I’ve followed it. Kieran’s done a great job in the academy and now he’s in with the first-team, really highly-regarded and it’s the same with coaches as players. You want them to know what Man United is about. He’s been there now for a few years and I think that link between the academy and first team is crucial because we bring players through, develop them to play a certain way and then they know when they get to the first team, this is how we want you to play.
You mentioned Nicky there and I guess Nicky will be able to advise on players coming through the academy. How important is it that we continue to develop players as part of the DNA of the club?
That’s the identity, that’s our identity. I was in the reserves as well myself so I’ve been on that side of it. The link between the academy and the first team and I know first-hand how important it is that me and Nicky, Ricky [Sbragia] and Neil [Ryan] speak a lot because that’s in our tradition. That doesn’t just go back to the Class of ‘92. It goes back even further than Sir Alex and back to Sir Matt Busby. Well, he had a saying and you never forget it: ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. I really hope that I can be a part of that tradition. There are some great youngsters coming through, I have to say. I watched the Chelsea game in the Youth Cup the other day and that was a fantastic result and performance.
Emilio [Alvarez], the goalkeeping coach, is staying too. Are you looking forward to seeing how he works with David De Gea, who is probably the best in the world?
I’ve spoken to David and Emilio of course. David loves Emilio, he really is so complimentary about him. We have the best goalkeeper in the world, he’s been player of the year for so many years now. He’s been here for eight years and he is still a young ‘keeper developing. It’s fantastic for me to come in. Maybe I’ll have to do some finishing training to take him down a peg a little bit!
David is one part of what is a talented squad. A few of those have graduated from the reserve days when you were there. Does it give you a bit of pride to see them now?
Of course. I remember I gave Jesse Lingard his debut in the reserves away to Burnley because the youth team had just played a game the day before and within two minutes, that little tiny kid goes into a 50-50 with a massive 6ft 5in centre-back who’s now playing at Burnley as well, Kevin Long, and I remember it still, he absolutely clatters him. That little kid, there was no fear in him. I thought: ‘You’ve got a chance’. Kevin Long had to come off, unfortunately, but Jesse showed me there that he had something. Mark Dempsey, who I had with me at Molde, he had Jesse since he was seven and it’s one of them that we spoke about a lot when I was over in Molde. The way he’s developed is fantastic.
And of course, I had Paul [Pogba] in the reserves, not for long because he went past the reserves and up to the first team very quickly. He was that special a talent. And Marcus we knew about, I watched Marcus [Rashford] and he was three or four years younger than Jesse, so he was just on his way up, so I knew about him. And those are the three I’ve seen from being kids. Great to see them now playing as well as they do.
I suppose you must be looking forward to meeting the rest of the squad in the same way?
That’s one of the first things you do as a manager; you get to know the people. You get to speak to them. I’ve spoken to most of them today. I haven’t got time to get round to everyone, I’ve got other things to do, but it seems like a great set of lads. Professional, wanting to do well, wanting to learn. I’ve spoken to Michael and Kieran about everyone so I’ll spend a lot of the time in the next few weeks getting to know the players.
Some of your most memorable results with Molde have been in the Europa League in 2015/16…
We beat Sevilla, actually, the third year they won the Europa League. We beat them at home.
What about the prospect of facing PSG in the Champions League, does that get the blood pumping?
Ah, fantastic. That was Monday, I was watching, not knowing anything about what was happening here and you think PSG, what a fantastic chance. Special nights at Old Trafford, the floodlight nights, the manager [Ferguson] always talked about it. You’ve got top talents to play against, our great talents to play against. When you’ve got Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Edinson] Cavani, those types of players. Those are the nights when Man United comes to the fore. I can’t wait for it. But, we’ve got many games before then. We want to build the foundations now and go into the game with PSG with confidence. If we can do that, great.
You’re coming back here as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treble season. How often in your daily life are you reminded about that?
There has been a few times, I’ve had a few pats on the back. ‘That was the best night of my life’. And I have to say it was a great night. 20 years on 26 May. There’s a reason I’ve got grey hairs, it’s not just worry and management. It’s gone 20 years, unbelievable how time flies.
You know the DNA of the club, you know the culture of the club. When you describe the qualities of the club who maybe don’t know, what do you say is the quality, the DNA of this club?
The first thing I felt when I came to United is that it’s a family club. It is. You know, I was so amazed when I got to the club how close-knit everyone was. It’s a family and then it evolved and developed and you see the winning instinct. It’s about giving youngsters the chance. At Molde, this was my model. Man United was my model. You have family, tradition, history, giving youth a chance, attacking football and winning. It’s unbelievable how much it’s developed since I came in ‘96. It’s huge. Biggest club in the world, best club in the world, best supporters in the world and we’ve got the best players in the world.
Finally, what’s your message to United fans?
It’s great being back home. I just, as I was when I was a player, I can promise I will give everything I’ve got for us to have success. I’ll do my very best, along with the staff, to get the players playing and enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to get it going.*
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