Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: I have prepared to be a football manager my entire life

Mike Whalley
The Telegraph

Virgil van Dijk might be advised to start looking for a new house. Since joining Liverpool in January last year, the defender has been renting a five-bedroom mansion in Cheshire; unfortunately for him, it is owned by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a man very keen to make a long-term move back to the area.

“Yeah, he’s evicted,” joked the Manchester United caretaker-manager when asked if he had given notice to his high-profile tenant. However the issue is resolved, it would be a major surprise if Solskjaer’s family were not packing boxes and moving over from Norway to England this summer.

There is no doubt that the former United striker’s second crack at Premier League management is proving a much happier experience than his first, five years ago, when a stint at Cardiff brought relegation and the sack within nine months. Wednesday’s astonishing comeback to knock Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League was Solskjaer’s 14th victory in 17 matches since replacing Jose Mourinho in December. Officially, the Norwegian still only has a contract until June; surely that will be extended for a man who believes he was always destined to manage.

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He said: “I think I have prepared all my life for this [management]. Ever since I was a kid, when I played computer games, I wrote out all the teams with my mates. They were good old times when I used to sign Zico, Maradona and Marco van Basten.

“I think I have secretly always wanted to do the job I am doing now. I probably believe more that I can be a football coach than a football player. It took me quite a few years to get to the level I wanted to be at as a player.”

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In the short-term, Solskjaer wants to ensure United qualify for next season’s Champions League; victory at Arsenal on Sunday would be a significant step in that direction. In the long term, he expects the club to become serious challengers once again for the Premier League title, a trophy that used to be resident at Old Trafford, but has not been seen there since 2013.

To that end, Solskjaer has worked hard on his players’ fitness; he will not accept United being outrun by opponents. 

He said: “There has been and there definitely is a gap at the top of the Premier League now. There is a top two and then we’re in the next four.

“We’ve got to close that gap. I don’t know how many points we are behind them because I don’t look at that. But we have to do things step by step because you can’t close it in one big gulp. We’ve got to keep looking at it.

“There’s absolutely no reason why Manchester United shouldn’t be the hardest-working team in the league. The things I always demand from the players are work rate, and attitude and fitness. So we need to keep working on the fitness and next season, the players know they will be asked if they want to challenge the top. 

“That’s what you see from the top teams in the league, they run more than us. And that’s not acceptable really.”

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