“This is a good performance and a good point against a good opponent on a bad surface,” said Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with the straightest of faces following his side’s Europa League draw with AZ Alkmaar.
A game that would’ve put a glass eye to sleep is what it was. It’s all a far cry from the press conference he gave back in March following United’s incredible comeback against Paris St-Germain.
“It’s this club. It’s what we do, that’s Man Utd,” beamed Solskjaer as he addressed the assembled media. “Of course we fancy ourselves (to win the Champions League) but we just have to wait for the draw and then take the game as it comes”, he roared.
It’s been quite a transformation from the grinning Norwegian we saw strut into Carrington last December 2018 to the beleaguered figure we saw defend last night’s dreary performance. Let’s look at the evolution of Ole’s press conferences in more detail…
21 December 2018 – ‘I didn’t think twice’
Ole addresses the media for the first time since being appointed interim boss. In between every hack’s question the 46-year-old can’t contain his delight and grins like Spitting Image’s Tony Blair puppet. ‘I didn’t think twice when they called me to sign’, he laughs, just about refraining from leaping on the desk and doing a little jig. Asked if he wanted the job permanently, the former striker remained coy, ‘there are so many people who would love to be manager of Manchester United. I’m one of them but it’s not something we’ve talked about’.
2 March 2019 – ‘Just like the old days’
The Streford End is rocking to the sound of ‘Ole’s at the wheel’. Romelu Lukaku has scored an 88th minute winner to secure United’s 10th win in 12 Premier League matches since Solskjaer took charge. “The manner of it is like the old days. I have been part of it so many times myself”, beamed the Norwegian. The result meant United had earned five more Premier League points than any other side since Ole took over at the wheel.
Third place, which looked a distant dream following the sacking of Mourinho in December, was now looking like a reality.
7 March 2019 – ‘This is what we do’
“We can go all the way”, bragged a jubilant Solskjaer following United’s Champions League heroics in Paris. Cantona and Fergie were in the changing room popping champagne corks as though they were at a P Diddy after-party. While an orgasmic Gary Neville was demanding in a high-pitched shriek only detectable by dogs that United erect a statue of Solskjaer outside Old Trafford, Rio Ferdinand was making an equal-sized cock of himself in the BT Sports studios by thumping the desk and screaming ‘We’re back baby’.
‘It’s a typical Manchester United night’, shrugged Solskjaer, under the illusion that were plenty more results like this were still to come.
21 April 2019 – ‘We need to apologise again to the fans’
Picture the scene. United are trailing 4-0 at Goodison Park to a shite Everton side. United’s own fans ironically cheer their useless players every time they manage to string two passes together – which isn’t often. After probably the most infamous night in Paris since Rick Salomon shot a sex-tape with Miss Hilton, United had lost six of the following eight games.
This harrowing defeat to the Toffees was sandwiched in between two footballing lessons from Barca in the Champions League. “Everyone here can say with hands on hearts that’s not good enough – not worthy of a Manchester United team. We know that and apologise again to our fans”, admitted a clearly irate Solskjaer.
3 October – ‘It’s not the 90s anymore’
In the wake of the ultra-negative late Mourinho era, it’s still refreshing to hear Ole put such a positive spin on a totally abject performance like the one witnessed against AZ Alkmaar. “This is a good performance and a good point against a good opponent on a bad surface”, said the dishevelled looking United manager.
To be fair to him, given the lack of effort and creativity from his squad of players, he was probably spot on in his assessment. This probably IS a good result for this team. “We’re not in the 90s now. It’s a different era, a different group that we’re building. We know there are going to be ups and downs”, he argued. Although this is all a far cry from the swaggering Solskjaer we heard last March claim it was ‘just like the old days’.