Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wound back the years as the Manchester United manager came off the bench to score for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side against Bayern Munich in the Treble Reunion match.
Fans young and old descended on Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon to see some of the club’s greatest players 20 years to the day since sealing Champions League glory in such spectacular fashion at the Nou Camp.
Solskjaer again started on the bench but made an impact far quicker than that night in Barcelona, where his goal deep in stoppage time sealed a 2-1 victory and the treble on May 26, 1999.
This time he came on for Andy Cole shortly after kick-off and produced a smart finish inside four minutes to put United Legends on course for a comprehensive win.
Dwight Yorke gave Ferguson’s side a two-goal cushion at the break, before man-of-the-match Nicky Butt, substitute Louis Saha and returning favourite David Beckham completed a 5-0 rout.
It was a memorable afternoon played out in front of 61,175 fans at Old Trafford, raising £1.5million for the Manchester United Foundation in the process.
“It was great fun,” Solskjaer said. “You know, just to see the lads in the dressing room before and after, getting the banter going, was fantastic. This is a group of people who have meant so much to each other.
“I think everyone enjoyed it, of course, when you win the game. It was still competitive, we needed to win it and you could see a few tackles flying in.
“I think everyone was happy towards the end and to see everyone enjoying themselves is what this club is all about – playing football in front of unbelievable and amazing fans.”
After a difficult season, Sunday’s match brought a welcome feel-good factor back to Old Trafford.
With the teams led out by Ferguson, supporters were treated to the familiar sight of Beckham firing cross-field balls, Jaap Stam showing no mercy at the back and Paul Scholes bossing the midfield.
Solskjaer only played a small part in the match, but the fans were still singing his name at the end as the United boss looks to turn things around with the current crop.
“I’ve got to thank the supporters again for supporting us and the money will be well spent,” Solskjaer told MUTV. ” I think everyone knows how much it means to play for Manchester United and this match, for everyone, means so much more than just turning up because it was such a big part of our lives.
“We have a big job getting back to these moments. We want to have moments to celebrate and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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Manchester United‘s third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant has revealed manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s finishing skills remain just as deadly as they were in his playing days – enough to give the shot-stopper a thorough workout alongside Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba.
Solskjaer played for United from 1996 to 2007, scoring 91 goals in 235 appearances, including, most famously, the winning goal as a substitute in the 1999 Champions League final. His was the second of two injury-time strikes that saw United overturn a 1-0 deficit against Bayern Munich in the dying minutes to seal an unprecedented treble, having already won the Premier League and FA Cup that season.
That moment etched Solskjaer’s name into the club’s history, and when he returned in December to take over as interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, it was a widely popular appointment.
The club legend oversaw a run of 11 wins in his first 14 games before a disastrous end to the season in which United won just two of their final 12 fixtures, but Grant said that amidst Solskjaer’s up-and-down start to life in charge, his appetite to be involved in training remained the same.
“We had a shooting session and I was doing some one-on-one work with Romelu and Paul,” Grant told United’s official website.
“The manager came over and I could see he was limbering up in the corner of my eye.
“He got involved and he was still pretty deadly, I have to be honest.
“He had some bad luck because he kept hitting the same post in the same spot. But the touch was there and the instinct was still there.”
Solskjaer will don the jersey in which he became famous one more time this weekend, as the former Norway striker will play in a United Legends side that will take on a Bayern Legends side at Old Trafford on Sunday, the 20-year anniversary of the treble triumph. And Grant says fans can expect a vintage display from the club’s current manager.
“He is very, very clinical still,” said Grant. “He did well and I am looking forward to seeing that game on Sunday.”
Grant, who joined from Stoke City last summer, is a lifelong United fan, and says he was thrilled by the opportunity to work under the club icon, who previously managed United’s reserves side.
“I hadn’t worked under Ole before, because I wasn’t around at the club when he was previously here, either coaching younger guys or working with the first team as a striker coach.
“This was a chance to meet one of my heroes and it was an interesting moment.
“It was slightly strange but very quickly you forget all of that and think, ‘he’s the boss’. You play it cool.”
Ex-Red Devils defender Paul Parker believes Mourinho’s failure to understand the nature of the job of managing United, more than disputes with his squad or the club’s board, was the reason he ended up being sacked last December after two-and-a-half years in charge.
“He’s probably never going to be a ‘nice guy’ like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is, but some people in football are too scared to talk about him for fear of the consequences,” Parker told Eurosport.
“Mourinho never smiled, which doesn’t make any sense. He should have been happy – he was in a job that he’d always wanted, one of the most prestigious jobs in the world at one of the biggest clubs.
“He was acting like he was at Carlisle United, not Manchester United.”
Mourinho recently said in an interview that United’s poor end to the season after a bright start to life under Solskjaer – the team won only two of their final 12 games, after starting with 14 wins in the first 17 games of the Norwegian’s reign – was proof that his complaints about the club’s structure and squad were justified.
“Things might have tailed off for United under Solskjaer, but Mourinho doesn’t get it,” countered Parker, who made over 100 appearances for United from 1991 to 1996.
“When you come in as an interim manager, your job is to fill a role. You have to pacify players and you don’t do that by going in and shouting at everyone. You calm things down at the club and then start to earn the respect of the players.
“To be fair, Mourinho might have a point about some of the players, but it doesn’t mean he was right to carry on as he did.
“They might have been difficult to work with. Some of them were stale, some of them were bad apples, and some of them weren’t good enough to challenge at the top, but Solskjaer didn’t ruin the atmosphere at the club, instead he gave them hope.”
Parker pointed to the high point of United’s season, a miraculous 3-1 win away against Paris Saint-Germain to become the first club in Champions League history to win a knockout tie after losing the first leg at home by two goals, as a sign that Solskjaer understood his job better than Mourinho did.
“Look at the game against Paris Saint-Germain, they could never have done that under Mourinho,” said Parker. “You have to work with what you’ve got, whether you think there should be improvements or not.
Jose Mourinho for Man United in the Premier League:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 12, 2019
• 93 games
• 50 wins
• 17 losses
• 1.89 points per game
Ole Gunnar Solskjær for Man United in the Premier League:
• 21 games
• 12 wins
• 5 losses
• 1.9 points per game#AskSquawka @FedeGotTalent pic.twitter.com/5VQV2IGWor
“He was the one to blow his golden opportunity – it’s not anybody else’s fault,” the former defender added, highlighting the January 2018 signing of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal as one of Mourinho’s big mistakes.
Sanchez has managed just five goals and nine assists in 45 appearances for United despite being the club’s highest earner.
“He didn’t buy well, and he bought Alexis Sanchez, which was a disaster for the club’s finances and the team,” Parker said of Mourinho’s role in the signing. “He was fitting a square peg into a round hole, and it was totally unnecessary. Nobody made him do that.
“The problem with Mourinho was that he wanted to be a manager, which misses out at least half of the responsibility of the job, which was to be a coach.
“He’d worked under one of the great man managers, Bobby Robson, but it seemed he learned nothing from him. When Bobby saw weakness, he managed it and mitigated it, he didn’t scream and shout.
“The very best managers plan for a year ahead, they don’t burn all their bridges in anticipation of problems.”