Part Two of Inside United's look back on the life and times of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in appreciation of his glittering 11-year, 126-goal Reds' career…
CAN SCORE FOUR, TOFFEES
Few players ever score four in a game, fewer do it twice in the space of nine months. United were one down against Everton in December 1999, but levelled quickly through Denis Irwin. Then the fun began. Two minutes after the equaliser, Ole had put United ahead. Racing past David Weir he slid the ball past Paul Gerrard’s despairing dive to watch it trickle over the line. Minutes before half-time and deja vu, Everton let United through again. Solskjaer – one on one, following a brief catnap from Weir – duly made it 3-1. Three became four when he converted Irwin’s cross for his hat-trick – completing the rout when he tidied up the mess Gerrard left behind following Giggs’ run and shot.
We’d come a long way from ‘Ole who?’ Seven glorious years, in fact. Ironically, given his precision finishing, there was some doubt about when his 100th goal in Red had actually arrived. “After the Bayer Leverkusen game (November 2002) I was told UEFA wanted to give the goal to me, but took it away because my shot would probably have gone for a throw-in,” he remembers. “Well, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t on target. So officially the one against West Brom [January 2003] was the 100th. To me though, it doesn’t really matter which is the 100th goal or the 99th. A goal is a goal.” Such modesty.
THE COMEBACK KID
An emotionally charged scene on a rainswept, south London night in August 2006: the game against Charlton was already in the bag, but United’s travelling fans celebrated the third and final goal like it was 1999. Their hero was back. Ole had scored for the first time since April 2003 (against Panathinaikos) and shared the love-in with United’s fans in Charlton’s Jimmy Seed Stand. “After three years out it was great for the fans, for the players and the supporters,” Sir Alex Ferguson said in the post-match after-glow. “Ole is a player who has persevered in trying times and he has never lost faith that he would get his repayment one day.
OLE HANGS UP HIS BOOTS
“When my knee flared up in training it made the decision for me, because it means that I wouldn’t be able to play at the level I want to for this club,” Ole