August 25th 1996 – a nice sunny day in Manchester and the Champions are up against fallen rivals Blackburn Rovers. The game isn’t going to plan with United trailing 2-1 to the 1995 English league champions; three games in and a home defeat is not a possibility. Enter a young Norwegian who latches on to a big punt up the field which is flicked on by Jordi Cryuff smashing a shot at Tim Flowers who parries before slotting home the rebound. Who is this man who’s name you can’t pronounce? How old is he? Cue the start of a legend being born.
Fast forward just over tens years later and he’s doing again in a vitally important game against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford. His final goal for Manchester United coming in the 4-1 victory that spurred United on to their first Championship in four years. The ten years in between were ten glorious years for the club in which Ole Gunnar Solskjær played an enormous part.
Signed for £1.5Million by Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 96 along with fellow countryman Ronny Johnson, Dutch international Jordi Cruyff and Euro 96 superstar Karel Poborsky (Raymond Van Der Gouw in there aswell!) – he proved to be one of the managers greatest purchases in terms of impact he had in front of goal. Not the quickest of strikers but one of the most accurate in the whole of Europe. Solskjær operated best as a striker in front of someone like Cantona or Sheringham but was such a good professional that he never objected to the boss playing him out of position wide right – for a time keeping David Beckham out of the side in 2003.
No red will ever forget May 26th 1999 when Solskjær came off the bench to hand Manchester United the European Cup on what would have been Sir Matt Busby’s 90th birthday. His instinctive flick of the right boot from a Sheringham flick on, will live always in the memory of the Old Trafford faithful. Solskjær really was a manager’s dream that helped him achieve immortality at Old Trafford.
The Stretford End has worshiped some incredible players and managers over the years including Sir Matt Busby, Duncan Edwards, George Best, Denis Law, Eric Cantona and one Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The 20legend flag has been a distinctive part of the Stretford End for a number of years in respect for the man. The chants still ring around to the tune of ‘you are my sunshine’ and no we wouldn’t have swapped him for Alan Shearer.
Solskjær will forever remain in Manchester United fans hearts for that faithful night in Barcelona but he helped himself to some more great memories in a glittering Old Trafford career. Who could forget the late goal he scored past Liverpool in the January of the treble winning year? Or the four goals against Nottingham Forest the next month? Or the late goal against Aston Villa in the FA Cup in 2007? Solskjær deserves all the plaudits he will get on Saturday against Espanyol as Manchester United fans say goodbye to a legend or should I say 20legend.