Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits Manchester United ‘lost their way’ after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Ferguson botched the managerial handover in 2013 by anointing David Moyes, who lasted 10 months before the authoritarian Louis van Gaal took over. Van Gaal presided over an FA Cup triumph but was sacked with a year left on his contract amid outcry from supporters over his soporific playing style.
Jose Mourinho guided United to League Cup and Europa League victories in 2017, as well as their highest post-Ferguson finish of second, but was dismissed 11 months after receiving a new deal amid a fraught dressing room atmosphere. Solskjaer replaced Mourinho, initially as caretaker and enjoyed a remarkable spell prior to his permanent appointment, but United finished sixth and were relegated to the Europa League.
Solskjaer is bidding to emulate Mourinho by securing the club’s second Europa League win after taking United back into the Champions League through a third-placed finish in the Premier League.
“I felt coming into the club there had been changes, a lot of changes since Sir Alex or I left, from what my last memories were of that successful winning team,” Solskjaer told UCFB. “Gradually but surely, I think I’m getting the feel we are getting back to the right values. I think we maybe lost our way a little, as a club, but that’s easy for me to say.
“The players drove the culture. Sir Alex, at the top, made the decisions, was the leader, we followed him. But he made players feel important and feel that we had to drive it. We had some exceptional personalities in the group and you can see by how many work inside football as either a pundit, an expert, a manager, so we drove the culture.
“You have to have a strong dressing room to make sure that you don’t just accept okay. Because okay [is] you might go home and there’s another day tomorrow. But if you want to win you can’t accept that for long.”
Ferguson frequently attends United matches home and away and, prior to the lockdown, met Solskjaer after home games for informal debriefs. “I’m still in touch with him,” Solskjaer added. “I remember the first day when I took over the club, I text him after the game I was so happy. He’d been out celebrating our win (against Cardiff).
“And still during difficult times and difficult periods he’s been a great help and just made me remember the little things that are important when you’re a Man United manager. And he’s always had my back and said he’d always support me.
“2020 compared to 1999, you’ve got to move with the times and the technology and the coaching methods and call it management of millennials. I have to manage the young boys differently from what Sir Alex did.
“We talk about the millennials and that they need to be spoon fed but they need to be seen, and heard and feel important, which are still old school values. You need to connect with to have a good relationship, both with your players and also every member of staff and every member who you are working who can feel they are an important member of this club.”