A move that has seemed inevitable for weeks was made official on Thursday morning as the 46-year-old fans’ favourite saw his caretaker role turn into a full-time post.
Solskjaer has been rewarded with a three-year deal after bringing smiles and a swagger back to a United side that had been toiling under divisive former manager Jose Mourinho.
A remarkable run of 14 wins from 19 games has resulted in the feel-good factor returning to Old Trafford and the club back in top-four contention after being 11 points off the pace when the Portuguese was sacked 100 days ago.
“I’m just going to be myself as I’ve always been,” 1999 treble hero Solskjaer said at his unveiling.
“I know the expectations of the club, the traditions of the club, the history we’ve got. Of course, I want to be successful, of course I want to lift trophies, but I can’t wait to get onto the job, onto the challenge of improving this great bunch of players because it’s a squad full of potential.
Ole’s at the wheel! We can confirm that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed as #MUFC manager.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 28 March 2019
“I worked with them – or we have as a staff – for three months and the improvement is there to be seen. We know there’s so much more to come from them, we can see so much more improvement.
“We see them every single day in training, the attitude has been fantastic but we know we’ve got a way to go. But lifting a trophy, I am sure, will be a success.”
The jaw-dropping Champions League win at Paris Saint-Germain even keeps hopes of a trophy alive this season.
“We’ve got a chance – of course we have,” Solskjaer said with a smile as the quarter-final against Barcelona looms large.
“It’s going to be a tough one, a mountain to climb but we’ve climbed a few mountains before.”
Solskjaer was typically cheery throughout a packed press conference at Old Trafford but struck a more authoritative tone when addressing the media.
The Norwegian knows United as well as anyone after representing the club 366 times and coaching the reserve team, and he struck the right tone between short-term success and long-term requirements.
“To lift the Premier League trophy again is what we expect, what we’re used to, what we have done so many times,” said Solskjaer, whose former club Molde are understood to have received compensation as a goodwill gesture.
“We can’t wait for too many years, but we have to take it step by step. It’s not like it’s going to happen overnight, catching 15, 16, 17 points or whatever we are behind the top teams now.”
Solskjaer has discussed summer transfer plans with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and hopes to have signings in place before pre-season gets under way with a July trip to Australia.
Furthermore, he has opened the exit door to anyone that is not ready to fight each and every game for United.
“Players who get complacent never last at this club anyway,” he said. “Managers… I’m the same. I can’t rest on ‘Well, I’ve got a job’. That’s not me. We’re looking forward, we’ve got to work harder.
“I’ve got some targets. I would want a Man United team that’s one of the hardest working teams in the league, the fittest teams in the league and that will then bring results I think the players know my expectations on the future.”
For now, though, Solskjaer can enjoy the fruits of the last three months’ labour.
Sir Alex Ferguson was one of the first people he spoke to after being approached about the full-time role, while he intends to keep the same backroom team together as assistant Mike Phelan speaks to the club.
Optimism and positivity were palpable throughout his unveiling, with the excitement clear ahead of his first permanent match in charge against Watford on Saturday.
Asked if he could believe he would be in this position three months ago, Solskjaer said: “Of course, because it is happening.
“I’ve dreamt about it and maybe visualised it myself, as I did as a player. We’ve had three months and now we’re here permanent.
“The players have responded fantastically to us coming in and we’re just looking forward to working together, to improve the players and the club.”
Solskjaer has revealed he and his family plan to live in the house he bought in Cheshire 12 years ago after signing a three-year contract as United boss.
The Norwegian, according to reports, has been renting out the house to Netherlands defender Van Dijk, a cornerstone of United’s great rivals who are battling Manchester City for the Premier League title.
“We’ve really enjoyed the last eight years living in Norway,” former United striker Solskjaer said in an interview with MUTV.
“It’s going to be a change for them but we’re looking forward to it.
“The six months that we agreed on (when initially taking the job on until the end of the season) as a family we agreed to do it separately as there was no need to move them over. That’s gone now. Now we’re moving together.
“We built a house, or I started it in 2007, but finally maybe in 2019 we can move into it – that’s long planning.”
Solskjaer, who has overseen 14 wins from his 19 games in caretaker charge, put the five-bedroom property on the market after he returned to Norway to manage Molde.
But he failed to find a buyer for his house, and reportedly rented it out to Van Dijk – meaning Solskjaer has had to stay at the Lowry Hotel in the city centre.
The Lowry was where Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho lived during his two-and-a-half years in Manchester before his dismissal in December.
Solskjaer’s 3.4 acre property is said to include a media room, a utility room, a store room/AV room and a first-floor study area.
It also has a master bedroom with a dressing room and en-suite bathroom, four further bedrooms, a garage, a brick outbuilding with a pool room, a dark room and a gym.
In addition, there is also an extensive rear garden and a front paddock with stables.
Score another win for player power. Manchester United have made another managerial decision based on the sentiments of their dressing room. Paul Pogba, having spoken publicly about who he feels deserved the job, has gotten his way, again, as have his team-mates.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been named permanent manager at the club. Somehow, player power is never considered when the outcome being discussed is a positive one. Players can drive a manager out of a club, but not keep one, apparently.
Make no mistake – Solskjaer has been appointed because of the results he’s delivered since taking over as interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December. Fourteen wins in 19 games overall, which includes the best start in Premier League history.
Six straight wins followed by a draw from his first seven games, eclipsing the record set by Carlo Ancelotti and tied by Pep Guardiola, who both lost their seventh game in charge of their new clubs – Chelsea and Man City respectively – after reeling off wins in their first six games. United have more points in the league than any other team since Solskjaer took charge.
And, of course, there was that night in Paris, when United rolled into Paris Saint-Germain‘s stadium with 10 first-team players out injured or suspended and won 3-1 to become the first team to progress from a Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg at home by two or more goals.
Solskjaer has, also, done a great job with the players, bringing some of United’s freer spirits out of their shells after they chafed under Mourinho’s rigid, disciplinarian tactics.
One could even say he’s empowered them. Allowed to attack and express themselves, players like Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku have thrived, while midfielders Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and, most recently, Fred, have seen upturns in their individual form.
Paul Pogba 📈— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 28, 2019
Marcus Rashford 📈
Romelu Lukaku 📈
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been getting the very best out of his main men at Old Trafford 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Hta4HNylbB
Results matter. But that maxim works both ways. Few managers will keep their jobs if results aren’t going their way, even if the players are behind them. In Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, he had such loyalty from his squad that even when he left early in the 2007/08 season, his fourth at the club, his players would spend years extolling the virtues of their departed coach.
Mourinho’s relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had deteriorated, and that contributed heavily to his departure, but so did a loss to Aston Villa and embarrassing Champions League draw at home against Rosenborg, coming after a season in which they’d relinquished the Premier League title to United having won it two straight years before that.
Look at Antonio Conte’s exit last summer. His tactics were no different than the previous season, when he’d won the league with Chelsea, but as soon as results went south, the reports came of players being disgruntled with their manager’s methods. Similar stories can be told about Arsene Wenger’s protracted Arsenal exit or Mourinho’s second departure from Chelsea.
Brendan Rodgers came close to winning the league with Liverpool in 2013/14, and was out by 2015 without his relationship with the players having demonstrably worsened. But results had.
At United this season, Mourinho – who let’s not forget, is the man who brought Pogba back to the club, and the duo celebrated their 2017 Europa League triumph with a warm embrace and defiant shouts – wasn’t able to get the levels of performance that Solskjaer has coaxed out of the same set of players.
Some grumbled privately about the style of football they were being asked to play, and Pogba took that criticism public after a 1-1 draw with Wolves at home, saying his team should attack more in front of their own crowd.
🗣 Pogba: “We have a coach that values us, a really happy coach. He's given confidence back to the players.— Goal (@goal) March 28, 2019
“He gives freedom to play football again. Maybe we lost that before.
“The first day he arrived he just told us to enjoy playing football again." pic.twitter.com/emfSJVVnIG
So what caused Mourinho’s departure? Is it that the players turned on him, or that he took a team from second place to sixth in the span of eight months?
Results and squad morale go hand in hand. Even if players don’t like a manager, if they’re winning, they can put that aside – again, Mourinho and Conte are prime examples.
But very rarely does morale not drop in a losing team, and once that happens, a conflict can easily arise between players and manager. Clubs are forced to choose, and managers are easier to replace than players.
Similarly, interim managers can be appointed full-time because they’re winning and that makes players happier, more driven, and less likely to question their boss’ methods.
So if Pogba and company took the blame for Mourinho’s sacking, are they going to get any credit for Solskjaer’s appointment?