Solskjaer’s title aim: Man Utd expect to win the Premier League
Norwegian holds his first press conference as full-time boss - see the media reactions and newspaper back pages
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer passed his first test as the full-time manager of Manchester United with aplomb on Thursday, producing a polished performance at a press conference in front of a media throng.
Having been confirmed in the position hours earlier, the Norwegian knew the press would be hanging on his every word but he looked every inch the managerial veteran as he arrived suited and booted in a jacket emblazoned with the United club badge.
“It’s a huge, fantastic family of a football club and I’m so honoured to be given the responsibility,” he explained, having first posed with a United shirt bearing the No.1.
“I don’t think proud is the right word. I’m happy, I’m honoured, it’s the start of something new. Now the hard work starts so it’s not a moment to be proud in that respect.”
Mountains to climb
Solskjaer has enjoyed a wonderful three months since replacing Jose Mourinho a week before Christmas. Only Arsenal have defeated United in the Premier League this year and they find themselves in the last eight of the Champions League and very much in contention for a top-four finish domestically.
But Solskjaer is enough of a realist to know that the fans would soon turn against him if they failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
“We know we’ve a long way to go,” he said, when asked to assess the health of the club. “It’s going to be a mountain to climb but we’ve climbed a few mountains before.
“We have worked with them for three months and the improvement is there to be seen. We know there is so much more to come from them.”
Saying he was relishing the “challenge” of getting United back among the top half a dozen clubs in Europe, Solskjaer said he has spoken to Alex Ferguson since he was appointed although he declined to divulge the content of their conversation.
United have come nowhere near winning the Premier League title since Fergie retired in 2013 and Solskjaer said he is already planning how to end the drought.
“The Premier League is vital for us and we’ve been discussing how to move the club forward,” he told the media. “That doesn’t mean ‘X’ amount of money, but we will do some business at some point.”
Since his arrival at Old Trafford in December Solskjaer hasn’t just improved results, but he has also transformed the attitude and performance of several players who under Mourinho looked disinterested.
“It’s creating an environment everyone wants to be in, giving everyone in the club a responsibility,” he said, when asked to explain how he’d done it. “We were lucky that we were good and won the first few games which helped.”
With a dash of astute diplomacy, Solskjaer also slipped in praise for the United board and supporters to ensure the red half of Manchester ended the evening in raptures.
“Now it’s up to us to keep making progress and we have to because we’re too far behind where we want to be,” he added.
“To lift the Premier League trophy again is what we expect, what we’re used to, what we have done so many times. We can’t wait too many years but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Solskjaer’s first match as United’s full-time boss will be a Premier League home clash against Watford on Saturday 30 March at Old Trafford (3pm kick-off).
Ole in quotes
Six of the best sayings from Solskjaer at his first press conference as Manchester United manager:
- “This has been my ultimate dream, maybe a naïve dream but I’ve always had that dream in my mind.”
- “Players who get complacent never last at this club – or managers. The players know my expectations.”
- “What I have done before as a player doesn’t really bother me because I am always looking forward.”
- “Communication is important. When you work with human beings, it’s so important.”
- “The day I walk out of the doors I hope it is with a smile on my face. I am not going to change, I will be an optimist and we will do this together.”
- “I know we will be successful but it’s about taking it step by step.”