Q&A: How Solskjaer has been received in Norway
With a 100 per cent winning record from his first six games in charge of Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made a significant impact so far as caretaker manager.
His appointment last month has certainly been well received in his native Norway, where he helped the club to become even more popular than when he first arrived as a player in 1996.
We caught up with Bernt Hjørnevik – secretary of the Scandinavian Supporters’ Club, one of our biggest branches – to talk all things Ole and what Norwegian Reds have made of his return…
What was your initial reaction when Solskjaer was appointed?
“I just thought it was fantastic! It was kind of surreal, really. We were sitting in the office when the news that Jose Mourinho had left came through and then Solskjaer was mentioned later on. The media in Norway immediately got us on the phone to speak to us.”
It must have been a huge story in Norway, right?
“It was quite a big story, yes. When the rumours about Solskjaer first started, I was contacted by TV2, the main broadcaster, and I was live on TV for hours to discuss is.
Are Norwegian people – not just United fans – proud that he is in such a position?
“Yes, definitely! The media in Norway were really excited for sure but also people who are general Norwegians and not even United fans. I think Solskjaer’s position in Norway is quite good so his appointment was a big event for all Norwegians.”
Every United fan loves Ole but he must be a God for Norwegian Reds. What status does he have?
“My job is secretary of the Scandinavian Supporters’ Club and for the last three weeks we’ve gained 3,000 new members, and we’ve sold out for every match in the spring at Old Trafford. We’ve had enormous success in the Scandinavian branch – it’s just fantastic. It shows how much he’s liked by fans.”
Do you have any personal connections with Ole – have you ever met him?
“Yes, I actually met him with some of my mates when he was playing at United, which was quite a few years ago. It was only for a few minutes but he’s just like the person we see now in terms of his personality. It was interesting for us to meet him as United fans coming over here to see the team play. He’s a man for the fans. In the six matches we’ve seen so far, the thing that’s nice for everyone to see is his personality.”
Six wins from six games – you must be pleased with his start and proud?
“Definitely! There will be some normal days, if you like, coming for Ole Gunnar but let’s hope we can win as many of the forthcoming matches as possible.”
He’s achieved success with Molde, which is often overlooked here in England, so were you confident he could do a good job?
“Yes, I was confident but United is a different club to Molde. He was at United for 11 years as a player and then as a coach so he knows the club. I think fans here and all over the world will be patient to see him succeed at Old Trafford.”
What has impressed you most in the games he’s taken charge of so far?
“Definitely attacking football, seeing the players lowering their shoulders and playing attacking football. We had a tough match last Sunday against Tottenham but we still had a plan to play attacking football. Just in these first few weeks, there’s been an enormous transition from before. We had some Scandinavian fans come over to Old Trafford over the Christmas period and they said the atmosphere was fantastic compared to when they were here in September. The atmosphere is so much better and that’s down to Ole.”
What are your memories of him as a player at United?
“As with many thousands of fans, for me it’s his winning goal in the Champions League final in ’99. But I also remember him running back to defence and getting a red card against Newcastle – I think that was also him playing with his heart for the club.”
The Scandinavian branch is one of the biggest in the world and you’re here this weekend for the match. How many have you brought and what are your plans?
“As normal, we have around 520 people coming over from Scandinavia for the Brighton match this weekend. For the rest of the weekend, we have an arrangement at Old Trafford tonight [Friday] and a guided tour among other things on Sunday, so it will be a full-packed trip over three days for us. We’re looking forward to it and looking forward to the match.”
You must be delighted that your membership has increased since Ole’s appointment?
“Yes, definitely. I think we’ve had at least 3,500 extra members in the three weeks since Ole came in. Now we are close to 42,000 in total and we still see new members coming in every day, which is just fantastic.”
Finally, what do you think Ole can achieve during the remainder of this season?
“I’m really looking forward to the Champions League games against Paris St-Germain because that will be a real test for him. But I think as long as we can get closer to grabbing the fourth place in the Premier League, and hopefully win the FA Cup, that would be success.”
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