Big Match

Football: Playing the OLE United way

Manchester United's Jesse Lingard celebrating with Diogo Dalot after scoring in the 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Sunday. New Red Devils caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been quick to preach an attacking mantra.
Manchester United's Jesse Lingard celebrating with Diogo Dalot after scoring in the 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Sunday. New Red Devils caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been quick to preach an attacking mantra.PHOTO: REUTERS

Solskjaer will attack, wants players to show pride and courage in his first match in charge

LONDON • With big names like Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane being bandied about, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment as Manchester United manager has largely been seen as a stop-gap measure until the summer.

While United have stated they will find a permanent boss, the caretaker is aware he can emerge as a shock candidate if results turn around, with the club off to their worst start to a season in 28 years.

At his first pre-match press conference yesterday, for the Premier League game at Cardiff today, Solskjaer said it was "an honour and privilege" that his former club had turned to him in the wake of Jose Mourinho's sacking. He said: "I've been here 11 years as a player, 31/2 years as coach, best part of 15 years of my life. There are so many who would love to be United manager. I'm one of them but it's not something we've talked about. My job is to do as well as I can."

He said that he had learnt from his mistakes at Cardiff, who were relegated under his watch in 2014, and had gained valuable top-flight experience since. He said: "I've had about 300 or 400 games as first-team manager (of Molde) and that period in Cardiff was a huge step for me. But if you don't make mistakes, you're not gonna learn."

Mourinho's dismissal was in part triggered by his fractious relationships with several players, notably Paul Pogba, who has been on the bench for United's past three Premier League games.

However, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the teamsheet at Cardiff and Solskjaer feels he can get the best out of not just the midfielder, but also other players ostracised by Mourinho like Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Fred and Anthony Martial.

The Norwegian, who is revered by the Old Trafford faithful for scoring the winner in the 1999 Champions League final, said: "It's about speaking to them about our philosophy, principles, how we want to play. We have quality players so it will be easier... You have to play with courage, go out there and express your skills."

THEATRE OF HIS DREAMS

I've been here 11 years as a player, 31/2 years as coach, best part of 15 years of my life. There are so many who would love to be United manager. I'm one of them... My job is to do as well as I can.

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, Manchester United caretaker manager, on returning to the club.

One Mourinho favourite will not be available. Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku is set to miss two games after being granted compassionate leave, with his return pencilled in for the home league game against Bournemouth next Sunday.

Despite being at the club for only four days, Solskjaer has also been quick to preach an attacking mantra, in contrast to the dour play favoured by Mourinho.

He told in-house broadcaster MUTV that they had to start acting like "the biggest club in the world", saying: "It's about the players being proud of their performances and the fans being proud of their team."

Although the Red Devils remain 11 points from a Champions League berth, a change in the team's football principles should at least bring about some much-needed festive cheer and Solskjaer believes they can bridge the gap in his 21 matches in charge once "the players understand how I want them to play".

He added: "Let's see how many points we can gather, but this club has made up many points before."

Cardiff boss Neil Warnock tipped Solskjaer to surprise the naysayers. He said: "It's the worst time you could play them (United), so many people wanting to prove things. He'll hold the fort until the end of the season and if he does well, he'll get a couple of years."

CARDIFF V MAN UNITED

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2018, with the headline 'Playing the OLE United way'. Print Edition | Subscribe