Childhood friends go head to head in Oslo
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Christian Michelsen grew up together in Kristiansund in the west of Norway.
Tonight, they’ll be in opposing dugouts as Manchester United take on the town's Eliteserien side at the 28,000-capacity Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo.
It’s been an incredible journey for both men, who sat down with MUTV when the fixture was announced to talk about what the friendly means for their hometown – and for Norway as a whole.
“We both love football and football has been a big part of our lives. Ole Gunnar is three years older than me so has been a role model for me all the time,” said Michelsen, who has been coach of Kristiansund BK since 2014.
“In Kristiansund we talk about fairytales, the history and this is another fairytale. Meeting the world’s biggest and best football club with a fantastic guy from Kristiansund leading them is amazing.”
The Owls were formed in 2003 after a merger between Kristiansund FK and Clausenengen FK, where Solskjaer played until 1994 and Michelsen started his career.
Under Michelsen’s tutelage, the new club were promoted to the Norwegian top flight for the first time in their history in 2016 and currently sit seventh out of 16 teams.
“Of course, I’m proud that we could get this game together,” said Ole.
“[They] fused two good clubs together, so as a Kristiansund person it’s a huge honour for me. We like these games. In Norway, there’s so many United fans.”
Michelsen’s side usually play their home fixtures at the 4,444-seater Kristiansund Stadion, but this game has been moved to the capital to accommodate the thousands of fans the Reds boast in the Scandinavian country.
The 43-year-old Owls coach saw United play on one of our previous visits to Norway and believes tonight will be a great opportunity for his players to prove themselves against Premier League opposition.
“I remember Peter Schmeichel [playing one of his first games for] United, I think it was against Molde,” he recalls.
“It’s a big interest for that kind of match and I know my players when they got the message that they were going to play against United, they got an unbelievable boost.”
Solskjaer also attended that game – a 3-1 win in August 1991 – and would later go on to play for Molde before signing for United 23 years ago this week.
Now manager, Ole is finalising his preparations for the start of his first full Premier League season in charge at Old Trafford, and sees tonight’s game as another important step for the squad.
“Every game’s important, every minute’s important now in pre-season because we need to be ready for next season,” he said.
“Of course, the closer we get to when the league starts, we want to see players being ready, taking on board the principles and what we’ve been working on.”
Michelsen is a United fan himself -
“he’ll even support us!” said Ole - and acknowledges that Kristiansund’s fans may be in the minority when the game kicks off at 18:00 BST this evening.
“Man United are special in Norway and especially now, when Ole Gunnar is having the managing part in the club, so the interest is rising again.
“But of course, hopefully it’s a split 50/50 [on the] day!”
As with all of our pre-season games, Kristiansund v United in Oslo will be shown live on MUTV, with kick-off at 18:00 BST.