Sorry back to a footie posting but forgive me because this morning it was announced that one of my favourite and probably most unassuming of players in Man U’s recent history has retired. The player? Ole Gunner Solksjaer, whose last name Barry Davis, surely the High Priest of commentating pedantry, tried to convince us was pronounced Solz-yaye-ar-ah. Yeh just like your last name is pronounced as f*ckwit.
Ole GS was one of those lovely players who always seemed delighted to be selected and never complained when on the bench. When he did play, very often coming as a second half substitute, he was absolutely bloody lethal. They didn’t nickname him the baby-faced assassin for nothing. In total he played 366 games for MU, almost half as them as substitute, yet he still managed to score 126 goals. We’ll come on to the most glorious in a second. But in one memorable Premiership match against Forest he came on in the 76th minute with MU already 4-1 up and strolling to a win, and he proceeded to knock in 4 goals in 10 minutes – the fastest 4 goal haul in English soccer history. That would have taught those buggers who leave early.
His greatest goal of course was the winner in the 1999 Champions League final for MU v Bayern Munich. It is to my deep regret that I turned down the chance to go to that match with Mike and Jake because of work commitments back at BT. Ah well, like many I watched the game unfold on TV and the ending was just about the most amazing turn around in a major final until Liverpool went and had a decent result against AC Milan. You all know what happened; BM were cruising and their players were already waving to the crowd when Teddy S. went and scored a late equaliser. MU immediately turned on the after-burners and from a DB corner, and Teddy S flick on, OGS went and stabbed in the winner from close range with seconds to go. Cue brilliant glorious celebrations and, for a change, German despondency. I know it’s wicked but their tears and heartache make me smile to this day. Check out this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMR_Z7tf.
That was the big one amongst the 9 major trophies he won with MU – quite a haul for a supersub. Interestingly only 2 overseas players have collected more trophies playing in England – both goalies – barmy Bruce Grobbelaar (13) and the magnificent Peter Schmeichel (10). Surprising eh?
That’s the good stuff but Ole also had serious knee problems which kept him on the sidelines for a lot of the 03/04 season, all of 04/05 and most of 05/06. He had a late flurry of appearances during last season’s brilliant winning season but the old knee injury has finally forced him to call time on a great career. Even Wenger, hardly a fan of MU players, was moved to pay tribute citing him as ‘one of the most efficient players at MU – someone who played with fantastic efficiency’. Blimey.
So he becomes a coach and an ambassador for the club which is surely richly deserved. He’ll make a delightfully even-tempered footballing diplomat. Ole OLE!