Manchester United’s history could have been so different had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined Tottenham in 1998.
United’s caretaker manager faces Spurs where victory would see him equal Matt Busby’s record of winning his first five league games in charge of the club.
He’s already an Old Trafford legend, but his career in the north west was almost over before it begun. Having been signed in a £1.5m deal from Molde in 1996, a £5.5m agreement between Tottenham and United had been agreed two years later – a fax detailing the deal was ready. Martin Edwards, United’s chairman and his opposite number, Alan Sugar, had signed it. The only thing missing was Solskaer’s signature.
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However, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t want to lose his ‘baby-faced assassin’.
“The gaffer called me into his office and said: ‘I don’t really want to sell you because if you stay here you’ll play enough football,’” he explained in an interview with FourFourTwo. “That was enough for me. I didn’t want to go; my agent did. He said he had never met a person as stubborn as me. But I was right. I normally am!”
Man United may have missed out on a £5.5m windfall, but it’s fair to say Solskjaer repaid the faith shown in him the following year when his goal sealed a dramatic comeback in the 1999 Champions League final.
“When you walk out of his office and he says you will be part of his squad you walk out ten feet tall. I was as happy as Larry. It is strange to see that fax,” he told the Manchester Evening News in 2010, revealing he still had the fax.
“The manager deserves the credit for all the success I have had. That was just one example of the kind of manager he is.
“There will be a lot of Sir Alex Ferguson I will take into management. He has transformed me into the professional I have been. He has drip fed things into me all the time.”
And the legendary manager, who played a key role in getting Solskjaer the job, is still lending a helping hand to him, having revealed he paid him a visit on the training ground.