Ollie Norwood: I owe Solskjaer and United a lot
Sheffield United vice-captain Oliver Norwood says Manchester United gave him the best possible education as a footballer.
The former Northern Ireland international, who joined the Reds in 2007 as a trainee but left five years later without making a senior appearance, has become the fulcrum of Chris Wilder’s midfield since signing from Brighton, initially on loan, two summers ago.
Now, at the age of 29 and with the Blades chasing European football, he’s set to appear at Old Trafford for the first time and, although no fans will be present, it’s an experience he’s been longing for.
That’s in part because he’ll be reunited with former mentor and Reserves coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he has revealed to our official matchday programme United Review.
“When the fixtures came out at the start of the season, the Sheffield United-Manchester United match dates were the ones I instantly looked for,” said Norwood.
“I owe a lot to Manchester United for the experiences and education I had there. The club taught me not just about football but life. I was taught how to be a good person.
“Ole played a huge role in terms of my development as a footballer and a person. The lessons he taught me in the Reserves have stayed with me throughout my career.
“I’ll always be grateful to Manchester United, to Ole, to [former Reserve manager] Warren Joyce, for the upbringing they gave me in the game.”
Norwood won promotion from the Championship for the third consecutive season in 2019, having previously been a part of the Brighton and Fulham sides which made it out of the second tier.
However, the Burnley-born man had to wait until this campaign to make his Premier League bow – and he feels particularly content with life at Bramall Lane, having just penned a new three-year deal with the South Yorkshire outfit.
“I’ve never felt so at home at any club since leaving Manchester United as I have at Sheffield United these past few years,” he continued.
“I was delighted when the club approached me with regards to possibly extending my contract prior to lockdown.
“Eventually returning to training and signing the contract in recent weeks was a great feeling, knowing that, hopefully, I’m committing the best years of my football career to Sheffield United.”
It’s the first time the Blades have been back in the big time since 2007 – and it’s been quite the year for Chris Wilder and his men.
Sheffield United sit just two points behind us going into Wednesday’s fixture and, with an FA Cup quarter-final at home to Arsenal still to come, the prospect of a first-ever European campaign in 2020/21 is very much a real one as we head into the final knockings of this term.
Norwood isn’t surprised at how well his team-mates have taken to top-flight football and wants to finish the season in the strongest way possible now, after the COVID-19-enforced shutdown.
“Our approach has always been to play the same way we did the previous season when we got promoted.
“We knew the best way to be successful was to stick to our guns, to do the things that held us in good stead last season. A lot of credit needs to go to the manager for the way he sets us up and the way we’ve gone about things.
“We are where we are on merit and we’re just hoping for the best finish possible now.”
Read the full interview with Oliver Norwood in the Sheffield United edition of United Review, which is still available to buy here.