Exclusive: Solskjaer's farewell interview
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken the opportunity to deliver a departing message, as he leaves his role as manager of Manchester United.
It was announced on Sunday morning that Solskjaer will step down from the position, after nearly three years in charge at Old Trafford.
As a result of the impact he has had, and the work he has done to rebuild the foundations for long-term success, there has been an outpouring of warm messages for a man that will forever be a legend at Old Trafford, for his contributions both on and off the pitch.
Upon the announcement, Ole wanted to take the opportunity to voice his appreciation for the players, the staff, the fans, and everyone at Manchester United, for their efforts and support during his reign.
He sat down with club media's Stewart Gardner to conduct an emotional interview, which you can read, and watch, in full, below…
Ole exclusive: I've given everything for this club
This is the only interview Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to do, as he departs from his role as United manager...
“You know what this club means to me and what I wanted to achieve here. For the club, for the fans, for the players, for the staff. I wanted us to take the next step to challenge for the league, to win trophies and I only think it’s right that it comes from the horse’s mouth. I don’t want to answer all… there’s going to be journalists asking me about interviews but no, I’m not going to do any interviews. I want to get it out there, I’m going to leave by the front door, because I think everyone knows I’ve given everything for this club. This club means everything to me and together we’re a good match, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the results we needed and it’s time for me to step aside.”
It is very nearly three years that you’ve been in charge. When you look back, are you proud?
“Very, very proud. Of course, it’s one of those things you dream of in your life. When you’ve been a player, when you’ve been a reserve team coach, the next job then, the only dream and the only thing you haven’t done is to manage the club, and I have now. It’s been a ball, it’s been absolutely enjoyable from the first to the last minute, so I have to thank all the players because since I came in, they’re top lads, top people. Some have come, some have gone, but all of them, they’ve been such an enjoyable bunch to work with. First of all, I want to thank the board and the owners for giving me the opportunity because it’s not for everyone and I’ve had the opportunity. I’m so honoured and privileged to have been trusted to take the club forward, and I really hope that I leave it in a better state than when I came. I’ve made great friends, I’ve reconnected with some great friends, new staff coming in I’ve become really good friends with. The other staff that was here when I was there, we’re good friends and we have connected and that’s what it’s about at a club like this. With the fans, the fans have been amazing. From day one at Cardiff until the last one now. [They’ve been] top, and we’ll see each other again.”
Something you touched on there about day one at Cardiff. I was thinking about memories of the last three years and what we could touch on. That in itself was a special day, wasn’t it?
“Of course, Marcus [Rashford] scores in three minutes or whatever it was, and we went on a great run, I don’t know how many games we won but that’s something I’m proud of as well, the runs we made together. That is a record in itself probably, the first 10 wins or whatever we had. I’m not great for numbers exactly, but I know we did well. The away run, the unbeaten away run. That’s something we don’t speak about when we’re in it because that’s not us, me, Mick [Phelan], Michael [Carrick], Kieran [McKenna], we’re not that type of people. But that’s something for me now that I can look back at and be proud of."
We should mention Paris as well…
“Yeah, what a night. That’s probably the first night that these boys experienced what Man United is really about, some of these boys. Because we were down and out, everyone thought we had no chance against a very good team with good players. But they showed the Man United character and pride. That performance, I’ll remember that of course and I’ve got a very nice picture of me, Sir Alex [Ferguson] and Eric [Cantona] celebrating, and some videos from the dressing room. So, good memories.”
What about rebuilding the squad? We talk about the squad you walked into three years ago and the squad that you’re sadly leaving now. Do you look at that now and say that you can see the improvement?
“Well, as I’ve said many times in interviews, I’ve been backed. The board and the owners have backed me in [terms of] bringing good people in, good players in and I think, or I know, I leave this club with a better squad. The environment is fantastic, it’s an environment I’m proud of leaving because you have to enjoy coming in here working. I don’t want to pre-empt anything but the two times I’ve left Molde, they’ve won the league the year after, so all the best to whoever takes over – that’s the expectation!”
The platform is there…
“I think there is potential in this club. We all love the club, and we all want to see it continue.”
“That’s Man United, that’s in the Man United DNA. We have to bring good people and good players through, and we’re good at it. The Academy now with Nick Cox in charge and of course my good mate Demps [Mark Dempsey] is very involved, and I’m one hundred per cent sure that it’s left in good hands, and we’ll see players coming through.”
I don’t expect you’ve been trawling through social media today but there has been an absolute outpouring from fans. You’ve always had a great relationship with the fans, not just in the three years, but 25 years. So, what would be your message?
“It’s been a ball. Let’s keep supporting this team, you’ve got to stick with them. They [the fans] have been amazing with me since one of my first kicks of the ball, I scored with one of the first ones, until now. And I’m sure we’ll meet again because if there’s anywhere I’m going to watch football games, that’s at Old Trafford.”
“Definitely. If you want me pitchside with you, I’m there! No, I’m very happy and proud with what I’ve done with the good friends I’ve made, and I wish all the best to everyone. You know the staff here, we’ve been through criticisms and blah, blah, blah, but the way they conduct themselves and the way they work, the knowledge and the attitude, I admire them. Normally, I drive in at seven, half seven at times and I think, ‘I’ve caught them today, I’m in before them’ but no chance. There’s not been a day.”
Obviously when you came in, it was a difficult position in the league, but you built from sixth in that first season, to finish third and then second. When you look back at that, is that something you see as a decent achievement?
“Well, I’m proud of what we did. The first run first of all, that was enjoyable. But then to finish third, I loved that last game, Jesse [Lingard] scored. The way we put the run together and got the third position, fantastic. Great effort by everyone, the team, the squad. Second place last season ahead of arguably one of the best teams in Europe, I think that’s a great achievement as well. And we were so close in Europe. Sometimes that’s the fine margin for you, one penalty. We were close and that’s something I’ll always remember as well. Semi-finals. I know the foundation is there, I know they’re ready to kick on and I’m sure they will.”
Is that one thing that will keep eating away at you, [being] so close to lifting that one trophy everyone kept talking about at every press conference, the importance of a trophy? It was so, so close…
“Yeah, you might say so and go back and say if you won the Europa League, that would have been a success. But you know, it’s not always the trophies all the time that is the be all and end all. I know that day, we needed to celebrate [by winning] that trophy. But that’s fine margins, we know the work we’ve put in is so important, to get to that final and to get so close, we’ve had to make so many good decisions along the way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score 11 penalties on the bounce. You can laugh about it, but I look back at every single second here with pride.”
It must have been a tough time of late, Ole, but what next for you?
“I’ll spend some time with my family. That’s been probably the most difficult part, through the pandemic, with Norway being open and here being closed, my family moved back to Norway and the young one, he loves it back there, so we’ve lived apart. So, I’ll spend some time with them. Then, I’ll watch the team of course and hopefully, the next manager comes in and I want to support him. I want him to be successful, hopefully I’ve laid the foundations for that to happen because I know I’m good at what I’m doing. I’m one hundred per cent sure to create a football environment, that’s where I’m good at and at some point, I’ll probably be back [working in football].”
“I am a fan and I wish the players all the best. There are some very, very good players there, some good people. I’m sure we’ll see them puff their chest out and they’ll go on a run.”
You’re going to be watching clearly, Ole, so what would you to say to the players ahead of another big game which is just a couple of days away, against Villarreal?
“As I’ve said to them this morning as well, trust yourselves, you know we’re better than this. We’ve not been able to show it but go out, chest out, enjoy being a Man United player, in the Champions League, on the biggest stage. If and when you win the game, you’re through to the next round, Michael [Carrick] is going to be in charge. Michael, I have the utmost respect [for], I love Michael to bits. I’m becoming emotional now because he’s top. They’ll be fine. I’ll watch them and support them.”
You’re always going to be welcome at Old Trafford…
“I hope so anyway.”
It’s been brilliant, dealing with you. Thank you very much.
“Thank you very much. See you soon.”