What 15 Man Utd players have said in praise of Solskjaer: ‘We love him’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already experienced plenty of ups and downs as Manchester United manager – but his players certainly seem to be enjoying the positive atmosphere generated by the club’s former striker.
After a poor end to 2018-19 and a turbulent start to 2019-20, United have been one of the form teams of the division in 2020, with their squad appearing to play with a greater freedom and confidence.
We’ve compiled what 15 United players have said in praise of Solskjaer over the past 18 months.
A £50million summer signing from Crystal Palace, Wan-Bissaka has grown into his role at right-back after initially being criticised for his attacking output.
“Since I came to United, the coaching staff have been great,’ Wan-Bissaka said in April. “They all really know their stuff, and they can make a difference to your game.
“Even a fraction of a per cent improvement is worth getting, and I’m really excited about the chance to work on my game in any area I can.
“The manager is a big part of that process too. Since day one at United, I’ve seen that Ole’s a manager who knows what he wants. You can see his intentions for the team.
“He wants every single player to improve, and he’s given us all a steer on what we need to improve. That’s what you need, I think, a manager who will push you.”
He added: “Personally, he’s encouraged me to go forward with confidence and express myself, and prior to the recent lockdown I think my attacking game was definitely improving.”
Martial’s growing influence has helped his buddy cop partnership with Rashford, who is also enjoying his most productive season at Old Trafford.
Rashford spoke of Solskjaer’s impact while he was still in his caretaker role. Acknowledging the encouragement he had received from Solskjaer, Rashford told Manchester Evening News in January 2019: “I think that’s the key, we haven’t had chance to work on it proper yet, but just having those words around you it makes a difference, and I want to improve and keep learning.”
Solskjaer has put a huge amount of faith in Martial, giving the forward more opportunities to play in his favoured central role, and has been rewarded by the France international’s fine form.
Martial recently told Canal+: “He [Solskjær] sent me a message, he said, ‘Do you want to take your No.9 shirt back?’
“I straight up said yes! I said yes and he told me, ‘Now it’s up to you to show me [that you deserve it] every time you’re on the pitch.’”
Martial has risen to the challenge, scoring 21 goals in all competitions to make this his most prolific campaign with United.
After starting the season being tipped to leave upon the expiry of his contract, Matic has instead earned a new three-year deal after Solskjaer said the midfielder was playing “some of his best football”.
“If the coach says that then it means I am playing well and he trusts me so thank you,” Matic told MUTV. “I don’t know if it’s my best form but I’m trying to do my best to improve every day and bring something to the team. That’s only what comes if you bring some positive things to your team and I will continue to do that.”
He added: “I feel physically strong. I play with a lot of confidence and that’s very important for me. It’s also important when your coaches trust you and the manager trusts you and he says positive things about you. That’s only what matters.”
In February, Matic spoke of Solskjaer’s improvement as a manager, telling Sky Sports: “Of course, every day he is improving for sure. He is getting more experience and he will get better and better.
“He is a much better manager than one year ago in my opinion because now he knows all the players, he knows exactly what he needs to do before the games, so I think for his job the experience is very important.”
After United failed to maintain their promising form under Solskjaer towards the back end of 2018-19, there were some suggestions that Jose Mourinho had failed to get the squad fit enough to play a more high-intensity style of football.
Speaking to United’s official website at the start of 2019-10, Lindelof suggested that was one area Solskjaer had improved over the summer: “We worked very hard and you can see that in the games as well.
“We run much more now and have the capability of sprinting at high speed, even in the 80th or 90th minute. It’s very important to be able to do it in football. It’s been great.
“I think the fans are always behind us and we have been improving a lot. I reckon we can improve even more under Ole and the other staff.
“I think we work very hard for each other as a team and run a lot. I think that is what the fans want to see.”
Bailly has not always been a key figure under Solskjaer, partly due to injuries, but the centre-back has spoken glowingly of the manager’s man-management skills, comparing him to an uncle.
“It’s important being able to work with someone who is a former player,” he told ESPN in March. “Someone who understands the players’ situations, understands all the things that can happen from time to time.
“Football is not just played on the pitch, it’s also about all the things that go on around the game, the things that people don’t see. And he is someone that gets that and it helps the team a lot. Besides being a coach, he’s just a normal person.
“I would say like an uncle, and having someone like that in the club gives the players more strength.”
Another peripheral figure to heap praise on Solskjaer’s man management, Jones told Sky Sports in February 2019: “He’s brought a freshness about the place. He’s come in and wanted to move us forward and bring those happy times back, and I think he’s done that.
“His man-management skills are very good. He’ll let players know what’s happening, and as players that’s all you can ask for.
“You just want a manager to be honest with you, and that’s exactly what he gives you.”
A month later, Jones compared the atmosphere around Old Trafford to the positivity generated under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“The lads are buzzing,” he said. “He’s come in, he’s been a breath of fresh air for us.
“He’s put the arms around the shoulders of people who needed it. His man-management skills are terrific and he’s definitely what we need going forward.
“I think everyone can see that (he has laid foundations). I think the fans, the media, I think everyone can see what he’s done and how he wants to play since he has come, and I think we’ve shown that in quite a few games.”
On the Ferguson comparisons, he said: “The same buzz. The same… I don’t know, like you can’t really put your finger on it, but I know exactly what you’re saying.
“You can see similarities in that stage between now and back then. It’s nice, it’s refreshing and we’re all enjoying it.”
Continuing the theme of Solskjaer’s personable touch, Tuanzebe recently told the United App: “He has an understanding of the players himself.
“It is a lot easier. He knows how people feel when in certain times and he knows how to help the individual adapt to the circumstances.
“For me he has been fundamental. We have had a sit down, we have talked about my future and what destinations I want to be reaching, and he has been really good to me.”
A revelation since joining United from Sporting Lisbon in January, Fernandes has credited Solskjaer for something not usually noted: his attention to finer details.
Fernandes told Sky Sports in March: “It’s difficult because it’s been one month, but he’s always careful with the details and for me, that’s important because it is one of the things which changes football now is looking for the details.
“Now, every coach is really good, they look at each other and learn from each other and so the game is difficult. Now you have videos and most teams know what you will do, where you will place the ball, where they need to press so the game becomes harder and harder.
“I think he’s really good on this and he was a footballer so he knows when he needs to talk to players, when he needs to give a good word or sometimes come and push you to give more. I think when you have a past in football, you understand these things more than when you don’t have [a past].
“But sometimes you have coaches who never play football and they also know this too so it depends coach from coach, but I think Ole is really careful with these kind of points. He wants perfection, which is impossible, but he tries to ask more and more from us.”
After a torrid time under Jose Mourinho, Shaw’s form has improved on the pitch, which he credits for Solskjaer’s approach off it.
“He’s helped me a lot on the pitch, but more so he’s been one of the biggest influences off the pitch too, with the way he handles players,” Shaw told the United App in May.
“He knows what players need. I had a difficult couple of years before he came in – I think maybe he realised that and knew what I needed.
“He’s really helped me off the pitch. He obviously believes in me, he tells me that. That’s the confidence you need as a player: to have the manager believe in you.
“We also get on really well and that’s a key thing – your relationship off the pitch.
“I know he’s the manager, and we all have massive respect for him, but it’s also important to have a nice relationship off the pitch too sometimes when things aren’t too serious.”
That same month, Shaw also praised Solskjaer’s recruitment policy, telling the club’s official website: “I’ve seen a lot of changes during my time at United and I have to say that Ole has been responsible for a large amount of the improvements around the place.
“When he came in, he knew what was needed, what had to change to get things up and running again. He’s signed people who aren’t just good players, but also really good lads as well.
“They’ve integrated into the squad really well and brought a bit more energy and togetherness in the group.”
Williams has been one of United’s success stories under Solskjaer, breaking into the first team to take on the mantle of club shithouse from Ander Herrera.
“Ole is always there for me,” Williams said in February. “He’s always telling me what I need to improve on, not letting me go in after training to work on things that I need to improve on.
“He’s always there when I need an arm around the shoulder or when I need the praise and also when I need to be told something that I need to work on.”
McTominay may have been viewed as something of a teacher’s pet under Jose Mourinho, but the midfielder has continued to improve under Solskjaer.
During a rough period of results, McTominay told Sky Sports in December 2019: “I don’t read too much into what gets said online, or in the press, or different things like that.
“Obviously it’s our duty as players to go out there and do our best for him and hopefully we can (perform well) because we love him. We love him as a group as well.”
Greenwood has been the breakthrough star of the season, with Solskjaer’s past experience as a clinical goalscorer helping the 18-year-old.
“Ole is a major part,” he told MUTV. “He has done it himself and knows what is he is talking about. Everyone listens to him. He helps me a lot.”
After 18 months of having his commitment to the club questioned, Pogba has returned to fitness in recent weeks to become a major influence on Solskjaer’s side.
“Like I said before, it’s about the team. You can call it a proper team,” Pogba told United’s official website recently.
“Sometimes before, we were maybe too defensive or too offensive and we didn’t have this balance or this control; now you can see we have that balance and there is more structure and we’ve been working hard on that.”
The signing of Fernandes, return of Pogba and resurgence of Matic has seen Fred lose his place in Solskjaer’s first-choice XI, but the midfielder spoke glowingly of his manager during football’s postponement.
“Ole is a great coach. He’s still a young guy, he’s going to grow a lot in football as a coach,” he told Brazilian website Trivela in April.
“He was a player, he understands how the player feels, and this is important for us in the squad. He added a lot, had a lot of experience as a player and is now starting to have that experience as a coach.
“He always helps us on the pitch, talking, he’s a very good guy, and I’m happy to be following his transition at United. I’m sure he will grow a lot, get a lot of experience and that he will become one of the great coaches (in the world).”