Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for Manchester United (v Bayern Munich), 26 May 1999
So, after 368 appearances and 127 goals, one of the Premierships most likeable football characters today announced his retirement.
Signed in 1996 (famously when the club were turned down by one Alan Shearer) for £1.5million, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a relative unknown outside his native Norway where United scouts spotted his talent after he had scored 32 goals in 41 appearances for Molde.
He began his reciprocal love affair with the United faithful a mere six minutes into his debut when he came off the bench to equalize for United in a 2-2 draw with champions Blackburn Rovers. He scored 18 goals in this first season as United won the Premiership.
From there, his predatory instinct, tireless work and team ethic made him, I would suggest, United's most popular player in the post Cantona era. I think he's also one of those rare United players (certainly of recent years) that opposition fans begrudgingly respect. The lack of front page scandal or back page demands for exorbitant wages, coupled with his unquestioning acceptance that he was rarely a first team regular (although he started over 200 games for the club) endeared him not only to the United faithful but also football fans in general.
His highlights were many. Clearly, a way to surefire legendary status at any club is to score an injury time winner in the European Cup Final but many forget Solsjkaer's late winner against Liverpool in the 3rd round of the FA Cup in that famous Treble season.
I also really admired his performances in the 2002-3 season where Ferguson stationed the Norwegian on the right hand side of midfield with the lone Ruud van Nistelrooy up front. Some eye-catching displays and 16 goals ensued that season.
My personal favourite Ole memory however is this ten minutes of brilliance as he came off the bench to net four times in ten minutes in an 8-1 demolition of Nottingham Forest. Superb.
And so, when I moved house to number 20 last year, how on earth could I resist painting my front door red with the "20" in pride of place?