‘Smiling is only one part of Solskjær. He knows how to get his point across’
Player coached by Solskjær believes Norwegian will shine as Manchester United’s caretaker manager
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts on the side line during the Europa League match between Celtic and Molde on November 5th, 2015 in Glasgow. Photograph: Mark Runnacles
I still remember the day Ole Gunnar Solskjær was presented as our manager for the first time in 2011. To be honest, you felt a bit shocked and it was a bit of a “wow moment”. Obviously, we knew him very well from his playing career and knew what he had done with Manchester United’s reserves.
The way he worked on the training pitch was a bit of a shock, too. In most parts of Norway, they have sworn by the so-called “Drillo football”, stemming from the 1990s and the success Egil “Drillo” Olsen had with the Norwegian national team. That style of football was all about quickly going forward, being physical and work on set pieces. Solskjær completely ripped that apart. He wanted us to use the ball all the time. Pass and move, but always with an end product in mind.
What I quickly learned is that he is such a warm and friendly person. He makes you feel part of the club. He goes out of his way to talk to everyone, from the people working in the canteen and the admin staff to the players and the ball boys. He makes himself available to everyone at the club. And it’s not only about football. He wants to make sure you know he is there for you, regardless of what you want to talk about.
Smiling and laughing
I have had many chats with him about lots of other stuff away from football, about our families and life outside of the game. It could be that I’m lucky because I have been there during his whole time at Molde, but he makes it very clear the door is always open to anyone.
But it is also important to point out that the smiling and laughing is only one part of him. He knows how to get his point across as well. He has probably been a bit inspired by Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer treatment, because he will make sure we know if we have performed badly.
There have been half-time team talks where he has made it perfectly clear how bad we have been. I respond well to being given direct and honest messages, that has always motivated me, so for me he has been the perfect manager. Some might not think he has this side in him, but if you’ve played badly, you will know about it.
I also like how good he is at explaining his decisions. If you are left out of the matchday squad, he will make sure you understand why. It is the same if you are dropped to the bench, or even if you start. For example, if you are not playing a game you will never sit on the bench or in the stands and think: “Damn, why am I not part of this?” He will say things like: “This is not the game for you, but in a week’s time we play this team, and I need you to be ready.” It makes all the difference, because he does not only motivate the 11 players in the starting line-up, but the 18-20 guys he works with in training sessions every day.
He is a master at pushing the right buttons to get the reaction he wants. Some players don’t react that well to being screamed at, some need encouragement and belief, and he spots who needs what. I think that is why he created such an atmosphere and unity with us at Molde.
I don’t think he was given a fair chance at Cardiff. Everyone knew that project was doomed from the start. How was he going to succeed with that group of players? I’ve seen people compare his time at Cardiff with the tenure at United.
Honestly, how can you compare the two? I just think it was very unfair on him, because I know he is a better manager than what he was given credit for following that spell. Seriously, what was he supposed to do with that team? Now he will have world-class players at almost every position, so he can get results. At Cardiff, I think that was close to impossible.
When he got back to us after Cardiff I think he was a bit affected by the way the Premier League works. It was no secret that the players wanted him back as soon as we were going to get a new manager. He will admit himself that he tried to bring the physical nature of the Premier League back to Norway, but quickly realised he had achieved success the first time round by playing his style.
He was the same guy when he came back from Cardiff. His door was still open, he was still firm but fair and he still made us feel like a unit. We were his team, and we believed in him just as much as he believed in us.
At Manchester United I think he will look to do what he did with us. He wanted to know us, wanted to understand how we tick and how he can get us to perform our best. He really is fantastic at creating a good atmosphere that is inclusive and exciting. Also, he knows exactly what is expected of him because he has been such an important part of Manchester United.
It’s tough to say how he will handle characters such as Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba, the big names in the squad. But we have to remember he played with Wayne Rooney, Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo. Big characters are nothing new to him. Some of the players he probably even knows from his time at United as a reserve team coach, but his first priority will probably be to make football fun for the players again.
One of his greatest traits is perhaps the most basic: he smiles a lot. He always smiles! He’s good at cracking jokes and making sure that everyone is comfortable within the squad. I think he can bring Manchester United a lot of positive energy now, and maybe that’s what they need. Sometimes the most effective method is to smile and have fun.
Mattias Moström played for Molde during both of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s spells at the club. Moström was talking to Jonas Giæver