Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - his most endearing moment

There are some players that supporters love no matter what they do. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is one of those players in the eyes of the Manchester United faithful. Ole’s every move during his time at the club was revered because there was always this feeling like he belonged to the supporters. Absolutely everyone connected to Manchester United loves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He played for the club from 1996-97 up until the start of the 2007-08 season when his injuries finally got the better of him leading to his retirement. He’s one of the ultimate good guys in Football. One of those players who gave United supporters so many good memories that nobody can say a single bad word about him.

However, if there’s ever been one moment that defined his dedication to the cause and endeared him to many United supporters, it’s not what you think. Keep reading. It’s not THAT goal vs Bayern Munich. It’s not the goal when he came off the bench vs Blackburn on his debut to make it 2-2. It’s not that last-minute winner in the 1999 FA Cup 3rd round game vs Liverpool. It's not even the 4 goals when he came off the bench vs Nottigham Forest (for those of you who don’t know about this record – he came on as a sub in the 72nd minute when United were winning 4-1, and then between the 80th and 90th minute he scored 4 goals. Eat your heart out Lionel Messi!). It wasn’t the fact that he refused to sign for Tottenham despite the club agreeing to sell him and then Ole stating his preference to fight for his place on United’s bench rather than being anywhere else. It wasn’t when he returned from injury vs Charlton in 2006 and bowed in front of United’s supporters when he scored. It wasn’t when the “20LEGEND” banner was put up on the Stretford End. It wasn’t during the 2002-03 season when he took over the right wing from Beckham and mastered the position. There are so many fantastic memories that he gave United supporters that I could go on for another week just talking about them; but it wasn’t any of these fantastic memories that Ole gave to the United supporters during his 10 years at the club.

It was during the 1997-98 title run-in at Old Trafford. United faced Newcastle in a must-win match. Injuries were already plaguing United’s title push during the title battle and the trend continued during this game with Schmeichel, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt all stretchered off at various points in the game. The scoreline was level at 1-1 and time was running out. Typically, United piled on the pressure with Shay Given in inspired form between the sticks for Newcastle. Every single player had a shot miraculously saved by Given…even Gary Pallister had a half-volley from outside the box that day! (can’t find any footage of it sadly but remember it vividly). There was still a genuine belief that the 3 points were there for the taking. United, as they always do, kept attacking and pounding on towards the Stretford End, desperate for the 3 points to keep them in the title race which Arsenal were now walking away with, when suddenly a Beckham cross into the box led to a Newcastle counter-attack, with every single United player forward…and the following incident happened.

Years later Ole admitted to being on the receiving end of Ferguson’s hairdryer after he’d done this, but for some United supporters like myself, this is the moment that endeared me to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For supporters of other clubs, they'll say "he's dirty" and bunch of other anti-United stuff. But for United supporters, this was evidence that he always thinking of the team before himself and he did what any of us would have done if we were in his shoes. If you can lip-read, watch as he clearly says “I had to” and walks away to a standing ovation at Old Trafford, here it is:


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