Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Solskjaer: It was a fierce rivalry!

Sunday 20 December 2020 07:00

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expecting a tough, physical battle when Manchester United host old rivals Leeds United on Sunday, despite the absence of supporters.

Thursday’s announcement that Greater Manchester would remain in Tier 3 means Old Trafford will remain empty for the time being, which the Norwegian sees as a great shame, having been able to experience fearsome atmospheres home and away in this fixture as a player.

Ole scored four goals against the Whites during his career and he reminisces on these, and praises the work done by Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, in our pre-match interview…

You’ve got experience of the rivalry from your playing days. What was it like?
“It was a good rivalry, it was a fierce rivalry. Of course, they were flying high, they had a very good team and did well in the Champions League, so the games were high level, good quality and we knew that they were important games for us to be able to win the league. They had some very good individuals as well, like Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka. They had goals in that team that we had to really sort out. There were different ways to sort them out. Gary [Neville] had a few battles with Kewell, for sure. As derby games, they were also [fierce] off the pitch, as they should be. [Some of it was] good rivalry, and some not so good: outside the stadium and when you come off the coach and stuff. But that’s what [being a ] football [fan] is all about – helping your team.”

Solskjaer: What the Leeds rivalry means to me Video

Solskjaer: What the Leeds rivalry means to me

In Solskjaer's exclusive interview: memories of scoring against the Whites, thoughts on Marcelo Bielsa and more...

I remember going to Elland Road just as a commentator and thinking this is incredibly hostile, even more than Anfield. Is it as hostile as it gets?
“It is, yeah. Of course, the gaffer [Sir Alex Ferguson] has told us a few stories about different things that have gone on in the tunnel, before or after the games. You get used to it as a player. You just get so focused on doing your job, you put all the noise out of your head and you focus on what’s happening out on the pitch. There’s tackles flying in there as well, to be honest.”

Your best personal memories? You got two in a 4-3 win [in the 2001/02 season], a dramatic game…
“That was a good game for me. I remember those two goals fondly. I enjoyed a goal at Old Trafford, I think I came on and we were 1-0 down and I get over Ian Harte [at the] back post and headed it back down to the other post. That was a good moment for me as well.”

We had hoped to have some fans in the stadium this weekend - sadly that won't be the case. This is a game where fans make a difference, isn’t it?
“Definitely, but it wasn’t to be. We’ve just got to get on with it on the pitch and make sure our fans are happy with us after the game.”

You’re up against Marcelo Bielsa, who is a unique character. What do you make of what he does and what he produces?
“Yeah, of course he’s done a great job with Leeds and he’s done a good job with many other teams as well. I think he was in charge of that [Athletic] Bilbao team we played a few years ago. You see that there’s so much going on and to analyse those games takes a bit of concentration and time. You can see he’s a coach with all the details and he’s got his teams running. They’re the highest running and sprinting team in the league, probably the fittest team, so that’s one of the battles that we have to stand up to. It’s going to be a physical game.”

All 35 Premier League goals v Leeds Video

All 35 Premier League goals v Leeds

Watch every United strike against Leeds in the top-flight since 1992, including efforts from Cantona and Beckham…

They look like they’re the great entertainers this season, at both ends. It doesn’t have a 0-0 written all over this one, does it?
“They’ve had many games with over 25 shots and they create chances. They go forward, they're a good team to watch and as you said the games are entertaining. Then again, for us, this is about three points and standing up to the problems they cause us. You’ve got to solve those problems and give them problems yourself as well.”