world," he recalls. "The two clubs had agreed a fee – I’ve still got the fax at home! It would have been easy to be pressurised into something like that, but I didn’t want to go and the manager kept telling me I’d get my chance, and he was true to his word. It was the pride of playing for the best club in the country. I wanted to be part of that.”
FIRST AMONG EQUALS
Ole came to win trophies and, after nine months, 33 starts and 18 goals had not only finished the campaign as United’s top scorer (19 all told), he had his first Premiership winners’ medal. “It was the first time I’d won anything in football, apart from an under-11 or under-12 district championship,” he recalls. “That Tuesday was wonderful, when I sat in front of my telly and watched West Ham versus Newcastle and Wimbledon’s clash with Liverpool. Ronny [Johnsen] called after the final whistle – we stood there screaming at each other like madmen. It was marvellous. I wanted more of that wonderful feeling.” And boy, did he get it…
TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM
With just four games left of the 1997/98 campaign, a United win against Newcastle was paramount to keep a Red-hot poker up Arsenal’s backside. Most fans remember the game – a tough 1-1 draw – for another iconic moment fresh from the bench, but of an X-rated variety. Having come close to scoring a dramatic winner, Ole’s goalbound effort beating Shay Given before it was blocked on the line by Nikos Dabizas, Rob Lee broke free for Newcastle with the game almost up. A goal would have virtually handed the Gunners the title. Ole tracked back with the determination of a greyhound on speed and took Lee out of the game with a challenge best described as agricultural. Out of character, sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures. As Uriah Rennie branished a straight red card, the TV camera caught Ole mouthing the words, “I had to do it,” to David Beckham. He knew what his challenge did for the side’s slender chances of catching Arsenal and retaining the title – and we’ve never forgotten it.
BACK IN THE WINTER OF ‘99