Wayne Rooney believes Manchester United’s hierarchy face a difficult decision come the end of the season on whether to offer Ole Gunnar Solskajer the manager’s job or stick to their original plan of targeting an experienced man who will stay true to the club’s attacking traditions.
Solskjaer has transformed the atmosphere around the club with 10 wins and one draw in 11 matches since replacing the sacked Jose Mourinho just before Christmas.
The initial feel-good factor was expected to wear off, but in the midst of the Norwegian’s impressive run, there have been some standout results, including wins at Tottenham and Arsenal, where Solskjaer’s tactical nous has been praised.
He has turned a dour and dull atmosphere under Mourinho into a tidal wave of positivity as United have returned to their core values of swashbuckling and stylish football, while Solskjaer is getting the best out of star man Paul Pogba, as well as other stars like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
There is now a huge sense of anticipation about the Champions League round of 16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain, the first leg of which kicks off at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
And in an interview on CNN’s World Sport veteran striker Rooney believes his former team-mate deserves a shot.
“Ole Gunnar’s a fantastic person. The club will have a decision to make at the end of the season,” said 33-year-old Rooney, now plying his trade in Major League Soccer with Washington-based D.C. United.
“It would be nice to see Ole Gunner continue with this form and get a shot at the job on a permanent basis. If not, if the club go to choose someone else then in my opinion (Tottenham boss Mauricio) Pochettino would be the right guy.”
Rooney is United’s record scorer, having netted 253 goals for the Red Devils in all competitions to overtake Sir Bobby Chartlon’s haul of 249. He also surpassed Charlton to become England’s highest scorer when he netted a penalty against Switzerland – his 50th Three Lions strike – in September 2015.
Following 13 seasons with United, Rooney returned to boyhood club Everton in 2017/18, before heading to MLS in June 2018 and signing a deal with the second United of his career.
And despite a clear decline in his latter years and the feeling the move Stateside was his farewell to England’s top-flight, Rooney still believes he has the quality needed to play in the Premier League.
“If I’m being honest, quality wise I can still play in the Premier League,” he added.
“I know that, I’ve always been a confident person, so I have high expectations of myself. I came here expecting to do well, I think there was a surprise from people who had their opinions which is fair enough but I never doubted myself.”
Rooney bagged 12 goals in 21 games during his debut campaign in America as DC finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs, although they were eliminated in the opening round by Columbus Crew.
Few gave United much of a chance in this fixture when the draw was made in December, but Solskjaer has transformed the atmosphere around the club with 10 wins and one draw in 11 matches, and there is now a huge sense of anticipation about this Champions League clash.
“The players and the supporters have been looking forward to this,” Solskjaer said. “These nights are special.”
They are the sort of games Solskjaer was used to in his United playing career under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“My last one was when we beat Roma 7-1 (in 2007),” he said. “That was a typical Old Trafford night. We’d lost 2-1 away from home but the manager was happy. He said, ‘We’ll be alright, we’ll win at home’, he was so confident in our ability.
“I want my players to go into this game with confidence and embrace it.”
With the PSG game followed by an FA Cup clash against Chelsea and a Premier League meeting with title challengers Liverpool, Solskjaer can further strengthen his credentials to land the Old Trafford job full-time over the next two weeks.
The impact he has had makes him the favourite already, and the Norwegian admits his caretaker spell has gone better than expected so far.
“Before I came in of course I couldn’t (expect this),” he said. “You always expect to win every game of football when you have players like this and you’re at a club like this but we know we’re not going to win every single game.
“I think the players are still disappointed with the two points lost against Burnley and so am I.
“I’ve loved every single minute of it. We knew we had a big challenge in front of us because we were far behind in the league, confidence was low after the defeat to Liverpool but they have responded fantastically.
“I don’t think we could be in a better frame of mind and we’re looking forward to the next few games.”
United’s 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday made it 10 wins and a draw from the 11 games since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in mid-December.
“We are looking forward to this, both the players and the supporters are looking forward to these nights, because they are special. Always been special,” said the Norwegian.
PSG meanwhile arrive in England reeling from key injuries after Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier joined star striker Neymar in being ruled out of the first-leg at Old Trafford.