Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes to persuade Manchester United duo to stay at Old Trafford

Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got off to a flying start at Old Trafford (Martin Rickett/PA)
Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got off to a flying start at Old Trafford (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ian Whittell

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes his personal experience as a Manchester United player can help convince Anthony Martial and David de Gea to make long-term commitments to the club.

The United interim manager is only expected to remain in charge, as Jose Mourinho's successor, until the end of the current season when United's "loan" arrangement with his Norwegian club Molde comes to an end.

But Solskjaer clearly wants to leave United in as strong as shape as possible with the futures of the two key players one of the many burning issues currently facing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

French striker Martial and goalkeeper De Gea both had one-year extensions activated by Woodward in recent weeks but appear no closer to agreeing long-term offers to stay at Old Trafford beyond the end of next season.

"I know the club want them to sign, of course, because they are top quality players," said Solskjaer. "It's down to the players, but when you're at Man United there isn't a lot of greener grass on the other side.

"You are at the best place. It's the biggest club in the world. For me, I would hope I can help or guide these players to maybe tip them over to thinking they want to stay at this club."

Whether Solskjaer's message gets through to the two players involved remains to be seen. Martial's agent Philippe Lamboley spoke openly of his client's problems with Mourinho and, last summer, publicly stated he wished to leave United.

De Gea, constantly linked with Europe's leading clubs in recent years, is another player who might be forgiven for waiting to see how United's managerial position is filled.

Solskjaer knows what he is talking about, having spent 11 years under Sir Alex Ferguson as a player and having turned down numerous opportunities to leave Old Trafford.

The former United striker could have guaranteed more first team football with such a move, and even once rejected a transfer to Tottenham even though it had been agreed by both clubs.

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"I had loads of offers and possibilities to move but the manager (Ferguson) sat me down and told me I was going to be an important part of his team, his squad and I was going to play enough games," said Solskjaer.

"I felt privileged to play here. I am also stubborn. The club agreed to sell me to Spurs one time and I said ‘no, thank you.' My agent wanted me to go, but I knew I was at the best place.

"I wasn't sure the grass was greener somewhere else. I had a period when I wasn't playing. I would get angry. Then he would put me in the team and I would feel a big part of it and important.

"Sir Alex was the best when it came to managing squad players. We're not talking about squad players now, we are talking about top players. If you are a regular at Manchester United, I think you should grasp the opportunity to stay here and become part of the history."

Solskjaer, of course, wrote his own part in United's history with his winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final before starting his coaching career with the club as a forward coach. Now, he hopes to pass on his experiences to the current crop of United strikers, including Martial.

"I wasn't born with it," he explained. "I studied finishing, I studied goals, I studied movement. I worked on my mentality because that's key. You will always miss chances but you can't do anything about them once they've gone.

"It's always about the next chance. You have got to be one step ahead as a striker, to create that space you need. My first job here after I finished playing was as a forwards' coach. So I worked with Cristiano (Ronaldo), Wayne (Rooney), Danny Welbeck, (Carlos) Tevez was here. That was a good start for me!

"But my strength was putting the ball in the net and I am sure I can give these boys a little bit of detail into scoring goals. But in terms of talent and physical attributes, the strikers here have got loads more than I had."

United face Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Sunday, with Solskjaer looking to make it three wins in eight days since taking charge at Cardiff last weekend. He awaits late fitness checks on Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Martial before naming his team.

Independent News Service

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