Solskjær on Paris, Sir Alex and the United way
Manchester United manager until the end of the season, former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær has made a stirring start. However, the 45-year-old is not thinking beyond the UEFA Champions League round of 16 meeting with Paris just yet, as he tells UEFA.com.
On Paris …
“I have to say they have everything, really. They create space for themselves, they have technique and strength. [Edinson] Cavani is like a Viking, like the ones you see in videos, like a warrior almost! [Kylian] Mbappé has incredible pace, there is no one who is as a lightning quick as him.
“But still, I have three good forwards myself. As well as [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial, [Romelu] Lukaku, we have [Alexis] Sánchez and [Jesse] Lingard. They can challenge PSG’s defence.
“[Paris coach Thomas] Tuchel is very good tactically. He can play 3-4-3 or he can go with a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, so we can’t prepare any specific tactics. We have to look at how we can improve – that’s the only thing we can control, really. We’ve got to rediscover the Manchester United way of playing, and I don’t think many teams enjoy their nights at Old Trafford when we’re on song.
“It’s about taking the game to the opposition, always believing in yourself. If you asked other managers who played against Sir Alex [Ferguson]’s teams, the pace and the tempo going forward was key. And, of course, the belief, the surge, that last 15 to 20 minutes towards the Stretford End – it was almost like the ball was just sucked into the goal.”
On his coaching journey …
“[Sir Alex Ferguson] was like a second dad. I ended up living on the same street as him and his grandkids were in the same class as my kids, so of course I had a fantastic relationship with him over the years. Whatever you asked him about, you got an answer and you sat back and you thought: ‘He really knows his stuff!’
“When I was 27, 28, I thought I would never be a coach, because I just wanted to get away from the limelight, but then I got my injury [a knee problem which eventually led to early retirement] and I sat down and reflected and thought: ‘If I can’t play again, I don’t want to leave this game.’ Then all my 20 years of football madness, craziness, nerdiness, call it what you like, came in and I thought: ‘I’m going to go for this.’
“[Sir Alex] said I was analytical, but that was just one or two defenders you’re playing against. I thought I knew everything about football, and then you become a coach and you need to know every single thing about every single position.”
On the UEFA Champions League …
“The biggest nights of my career have been Champions League nights, so of course when you get to this stage of the tournament, with the floodlights on, these are the games that you really look forward to. When the anthem [sounds out] across the stadium, [when] you walk in: it’s one of those special, special times at Old Trafford.
“Have I wondered about winning the competition? I’m not even thinking that far ahead. Now I’m thinking about how we can go through to the next round by beating Paris Saint-Germain.”