Solskjaer cannot wait to get back to Barcelona 20 years after famous Champions League winner for Man Utd
FOOTBALL. Bloody Hell!
Just 90 minutes before yesterday’s Champions League draw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he did not believe in fate.
Then the interim Manchester United boss was handed a return to the Nou Camp.
It is 20 years since the then United No 20 went there on what would have been Sir Matt Busby’s 90th birthday and plundered the most famous goal in the club’s history.
An injury-time winner that beat Bayern Munich in the European Cup final to clinch a magical Treble.
This time the opposition will be the hosts, Barcelona, roared on by their passionate Catalan supporters.
Latest Man Utd news
It is also not the final but the quarter-final.
But the now grey hairs on the back of Solskjaer’s neck must have shot up when the venue of their last-eight tie came out.
Solskjaer said: “It was the biggest night I’ve had in football.
“Of course, for all of us in that team it was an unbelievable night.
“It’s a great stadium . . . and, of course, we met them in the group stages as well that year — 3-3 both home and away.
“So this will be a good game.”
United have been there once since that unforgettable night of May 26, 1999 — the first leg of the 2008 Champions League semi-final.
They drew 0-0 and went on to win the second leg through Paul Scholes’ stunning only goal before beating Chelsea on penalties in the Moscow final.
Solskjaer had gone by then. Now he is back and at the wheel, which for the United fans is something special.
So there will be a huge whiff of nostalgia in the air in one of football’s greatest venues on April 16.
Solskjaer rates United’s chances, without fate’s intervention as well, particularly after their stunning comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round.
Having lost the first leg of that last-16 tie 2-0 at home, they conjured up a 3-1 away win to go through.
It was a result Solskjaer believes gives the Class of 2019 the belief they can achieve anything in this competition.
He said: “Definitely. The confidence in the players, it’s sky high.
“And the mood is good, the training attitude is good, so hopefully we can keep that run going.
“It goes in cycles. Porto won it in 2004, Monaco got to the final, Ajax . . . you never know. On any given day any team can beat anyone of them eight.
“I think we showed against PSG that on any given day we can beat a top team. The more games you win, the more confidence you breed, the more hunger there is in the players.
“Every single game that you win puts another layer on that, on the way to becoming the team we want to be.”
Barcelona have denied United in their last two Champions League finals — in 2009 and 2011 — and will be favourites to go through this tie.
Yet Solskjaer did not wince when the draw was made, but rubbed his hands at the opportunity that lies before him.
He added: “We want these games against the biggest clubs.
“We had the finals against them in 2009 and 2011 and the semi-final in 2008 when Scholesy scored and it’s those games that our supporters and this club crave.
“We are looking forward to this one.”
This is a United team with its eyes on the prize and not just one.
Tonight, they face Wolves in the last eight of the FA Cup as well. It is that time of the season
Solskjaer remembers well under Sir Alex Ferguson when the team began to shift through the gears on their road to glory.
He wants this side to do the same thing.
Solskjaer said: “It’s not the squeaky bum time like the gaffer used to say.
“But it tightens up and April and May at Manchester United is when we narrow the focus and it’s now about winning trophies, making use of the squad.
“It’s always been April and May when we make the last step.”
United go into the game at Molineux on the back of their first league defeat under Solskjaer — a 2-0 reverse at Arsenal last weekend.
But the Norwegian says that in no way has halted the momentum built up under himself as he was still very pleased with the performance.
So the next step in an incredible season of two halves is about to be taken.
Were it to finish with silverware, that would be incredible.
Were it to finish with the Champions League, well that would just be spooky.