Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not afraid to “lay down the law” to the Manchester United players and has already spoken to them about the “standards we have on and off the pitch”.
In his first press conference since taking over as United’s caretaker manager Solskjaer also stated that he wants to carry on as a permanent appointment beyond this season and would “not be fearing (for) myself” as to whether he could cope at such a big Premier League club.
The former United striker revealed that one of the first people he contacted after being offered the job last Tuesday was his “mentor” Sir Alex Ferguson and that the pair have been in regular contact.
Ahead of his first match – ironically against the British club he previously managed, Cardiff City – Solskjaer said his aim was to “get us smiling, get us winning games… go out and express yourselves, take r
However despite the desire to bring back more enjoyment to United’s football, and improve the atmosphere around the club that had been so miserable this season under Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer was at pains to stress he can be tough.
“I’m not sure about you saying the power has gone to the dressing room,” Solskjaer argued. “Football has evolved, of course, and the gaffer (Ferguson) was in charge of more or less the whole club.
“Football is developing. The structure of the club has developed. (But) The power is with the manager. He picks the team, the tactics, the strategy. The philosophy is in these walls. That legacy is more important than any player power.”
Solksjaer has already addressed the players, on his first day back on Thursday, after flying into Manchester on Wednesday evening, about behaviour with so much animosity towards Mourinho.
“I am also not afraid of, if you like, laying down the law,” the 45-year-old said. “You know with your kids, if they disappoint you, you tell them off. You don’t give them some chocolate. So you treat players similar to how you treat your kids, really, because you want the best for them, you want to guide them and help them. If I am disappointed – ask Elijah or Karna or Noah (his three children) or one of the players I had in Molde (the Norwegian club he manages).
“Once in a while you really have to tell them the standards we have got. We’ve spoken about what we expect, what standards we have on and off the pitch. I trust the lads to know what they’re doing, to help the team. Everything we do is to help the team. The world has changed now. I’m not into this social media. My kids are, yeah. I’m that old that I’m not on Twitter or Facebook but that’s just common sense for me, what I’ve spoken to them about. We move this forward.”
The relationship with Paul Pogba, who drew criticism for a timed Instagram post soon after Mourinho was fired, will be key while Solskjaer has previously said he would build the team around United’s ostracised record signing.
“He’s a World Cup winner,” Solskjaer said with the expectation being that he will bring the midfielder straight back into the team to face Cardiff although he is expected to be without Romelu Lukaku who has been granted compassionate leave. “Paul is a terrific lad and I had him (as reserve team coach) as a kid. He was always there, the happy-go-lucky lad. He hasn’t changed personality-wise. He’s a better player, of course, and he’s one that I want to get the best out of.”
With United in sixth place in the league Solskjaer said there was no aim beyond winning games and playing with a style more traditionally associated with United who have lost their way since Ferguson retired in 2013.
“Sir Alex – and even going all the way back to Sir Matt (Busby) – installed that way of playing fantastic football,” Solskjaer explained. “They’ve had three fantastic managers since. I have to say I’ve got huge respect for all three of them. They’ve managed the club their way. On their own merits, you can’t criticise Mourinho, David Moyes, (Louis) Van Gaal. They’ve had many more games than me, even more experience than me in how to deal with players and a club.
“It’s not down to me now to talk about the last five years. It’s down to me to talk about the next five months and to work the next five months towards getting us happy, getting us smiling, getting us winning games. Because we’re too far down the league. We’re not used to being sixth.”
United are targeting Mauricio Pochettino as their next permanent manager at the end of this season but although they are prepared to pay what would be a world record amount of compensation for him – estimated at £42million by one source – it remains to be seen whether he can he prised away from Tottenham Hotspur.
United insist no agreement, and no potential compensation fee, is in place with Molde, should Solksjaer prove such a success that they want to retain him. The club have reiterated that they will run “a process” from now to identity and then hire their next manager.
However, Solskjaer gave a clear indication that he would like to stay in charge. “I understand there are so many, so many managers who would love to be manager of Man Utd so of course I’m one of them but it’s not something we’ve talked about,” he said. “I would not be fearing (for) myself at this level. I’m ambitious but I understand that the club is doing a process.”