In his first proper interview since leaving Manchester United, club legend and ex-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has shed light on his time as head coach, what the dressing room was like, wantaway players, transfer window mistakes and more.
Speaking in an exclusive with United We Stand editor and journalist for The Athletic, Andy Mitten, the former Man United striker turned boss broke his silence on a number of issues after having been let go by the club in November 2021 following a poor run of results.
In contrast, the treble-lifting centre-forward earned the full-time manager’s position after an incredible start in an interim role, managing 14 wins in his first 19 games and fans were more than happy to see him come on board permanently.
But this form didn’t last forever despite finishing second the next year, making it to multiple semis and a Europa League final, United‘s league form began to suffer and it became clear other issues around the club had arisen. Now, according to the Norwegian, there was a fair few that played their part.
In the extensive sit-down with the lifelong Red, the 50-year-old revealed that in the nearly two years since his sacking, he’s had a lot of time to reflect on his tenure as manager and that despite enjoying coaching at youth level, he does miss the professional game and has received offers from Saudi Arabia.
Regarding Old Trafford itself, he believes that his time there may have gone in another direction if one moment had gone differently. “Well, there’s something missing: a trophy”, said Solskjær; “One penalty could have changed that losing in the shootout against Villarreal in the Europa League final] and my time there would be viewed differently.”
Nevertheless, Ole insisted that he still did plenty good there — finishing in the top three twice, second behind a magnificent Man City side in 20/21 and bringing in some big signings — and that his remit from the start was simply to “get fans smiling again”, adding that he and the team “had something going”.
However, he suggested that as many fans still believe to this day, the return of Cristiano Ronaldo was a “very difficult decision to turn down” and despite feeling that yes was the right choice, “it turned out wrong” and definitely factored into his eventual downfall.
The ‘baby-faced assassin’ went on to reveal that he also knew he was going to be sacked at half-time in the 4-1 defeat to Watford and apparently told his players as much, detailing how received a text from Ed Woodward the following morning asking to see him in his office.
His relationship with Woodward and the rest of the board was another aspect he touched upon, revealing that he simply couldn’t buy the players he wanted to after agreeing to sign “three main ones” every season when he accepted the job.
“We couldn’t buy the players I mentioned to the club… Erling Haaland, before he made his Salzburg debut. Declan Rice, who wouldn’t have cost what he did in the summer. We discussed Moises Caicedo, but we felt we needed players ready for there and then…
“We wanted Jude Bellingham badly — he’s a Man United player, but I respect he chose Dortmund. That was probably sensible. But it’s why I respect Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Dan James and Jadon. Young players prepared to come into a team that wasn’t 100 per cent there like it was when I arrived.”
The retired marksman also added, “I would have signed [Harry] Kane every day of the week and my understanding was that he wanted to come” but confirmed that “the club didn’t have the budget with the financial constraints from Covid-19, there was no bottomless pit.”
As for the players that he did sign, he cited Bruno Fernandes as his best and most impactful but admitted that it “hasn’t worked out” with Jadon Sancho and that “we’re still yet to see the best from him”.
He also went on to reveal that some members of the squad “weren’t as good as their own perception of themselves” and although he wouldn’t name names, he said he was “very disappointed when a couple turned down the chance to be captain.”
Some even said they “wouldn’t play or train because they wanted to force their way out”, which he says is something that would never happen in his day, labelling it “a disease of modern football”. We’ll leave it up to the fans to speculate on which individuals he was referring to.
Ole also cleared up some media rumours about United’s dressing room culture and how he treated some players, assuring that they were “complete lies” and that he “had a solid, honest relationship with most of them”.
He didn’t blame everything on the players and limited transfer business, of course, stating that there was an element of “tiredness” and that because the fixtures and training “demanded a lot” it resulted in a lot of injuries.
Solskjær concluded by saying, “Let’s hope Erik is successful and if there is a cycle [at the club], that he breaks it. Someone is going to do it.”
Featured Image — Manchester United/Cristiano Ronaldo (via Instagram)
Scott McTominay jokes he’s ‘fuming’ he didn’t score a hat-trick against Chelsea as he reflects on Man United’s mentality
Scott McTominay has joked he’s “fuming” with himself after failing to score a hat-trick in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Wednesday nightand shed some light on the mentality around Old Trafford.
McTominay starred in the Red Devils’ win over Mauricio Pochettino’s side on a cold night at home, managing to bag a brace with a goal in the first and second half to get his squad over the line, but he himself said he could have had more.
Speaking to MUTV after the game, the 26-year-old said he and the squad knew they needed to drum up a reaction after the Newcastle disappointment, adding that contributing more goals is something he wants to keep working on and insisting that plenty of people back him to do so.
Confessing that his mum, dad and grandad have all been encouraging him to “get in the box” and that he just needs to “believe in [him]self and go for it”, the Scotsman did go on to quip he was “fuming” to not grab a third as he shook his head went on to shake and reveal a wry smile.
Commentator and presenter Stewart Gardner went on to list McTominay’s impressive stats this season, having now scored 14 goals in his last 33 appearances for club and country. A seriously good rate from a midfielder typically entrusted to help link play and break things up in the middle of the park.
Now boasting half a dozen goals and an assist across all competitions so far this campaign, he sits as the club’s leading goalscorer in the Premier League with five finishes to his name — with only Bruno Fernandes having contributed more (five goals and five assists) — he’s genuinely become one of Man United’s main goal threats.
While he recently rubbished talk that he played as a striker regularly coming up through the youth academy, simply having been deployed for the odd game in reality, he has always had a shot on him and it isn’t the first time he’s bagged a winner or a big goal for the Reds. This wasn’t a bad one either:
Chatting with the pundits on Amazon Prime Sport, he reiterated that he could have had “one or two more” on another night and agreed that the performance against Newcastle in the previous fixture was “pretty abysmal”, holding his hands up to admit that it was “no way near good enough”.
Reflecting on the later chance he had to seal the hat-trick towards the end of the game, he said he simply needed to “calm down on the last one”.
As for the mentality to get the result during a difficult period where the club remained under a lot of scrutiny from pundits and fans alike, McTominay went on to say that the manager is responsible for the way they played and some “lighter training sessions to keep energy levels up” definitely helped.
Regardless, he was sure to not get ahead of himself and assured ten Hag‘s team were still taking things a game at a time. You can watch the full highlights from Manchester United vs Chelsea down below:
Featured Images — Scott McTominay (via Instagram)/MUTV
Kevin Sinfield has entered the final leg of yet another ultra marathon challenge for MND
Ex-rugby player turned England coach Kevin Sinfield has begun the final day of yet another incredible ultra marathon challenge he is undertaking to raise money and awareness around motor neurone disease (MND), with the sports personality scheduled to finish up this Thursday.
Having set off on 1 December, the Oldham-born athlete is facing what he has called easily his “toughest challenge” yet, taking on the newly-dubbed ‘Ultra 7 in 7 in 7’, which will see him once again run an ultra marathon every day for seven days across seven different cities.
Following on from his first Ultra 7 in 7 back in 2020 and most recent one last year, the Leeds Rhinos legend has now raised well over £8 million pounds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), the cause he got behind following his former teammate and best mate Rob Burrow’s diagnosis in 2019.
Now, having taken on the incredible feat once again — running the equivalent of 27 miles (43km) a day — Sinfield is hoping to not just reach the trademark £777,777 fundraising target, but smash it for a fourth consecutive time. Here he is finishing up his penultimate leg in his second home.
Setting off from Yorkshire’s iconic Headingley Stadium with a team of friends and volunteers, the 43-year-old has passed through the likes of Cardiff, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dublin and Brighton, and is now staring down one last push towards the finale from Twickenham Stadium to the Mall in London.
Having already amassed over £557k in donations since the start of his remarkable journey, he is well on course to reach the finish line in every sense of the word.
The best part about this most recent Ultra 7 fundraising challenge, though, is that beyond just putting in the hard yards in Burrow‘s name and raising money for the MNDA, the funds generated from this series of runs will be going to multiple causes.
As well as the Leeds Hospitals Charity and The Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, money will also be going to the Irish MNDA set up by former Scottish rugby player, Doddie Weir, who sadly died from the condition in 2022 but has remained an inspiration to Sinfield and countless others over recent years.
Having echoed his lasting sentiment that “MND isn’t untreatable, it’s just underfunded” throughout his own campaigning for the cause, the local sporting hero will also be representing the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation in his honour. Heartwarming stuff.
As we’re sure is the case for all of you too, we’ve been absolutely blown away by this man over the last few years not only in his ability to keep completing these huge feats of endurance but by the size of his heart in continuing to fundraise on such a massive scale.
From raising awareness around MND and becoming an emblem of friendship with his best mate Rob, Kevin Sinfield has truly set an example for all of us and will no doubt prove a role model to millions for years to come.