Cyprus Mail
Champions League Football Sport

Ambitious Solskjaer wants 1999 spirit back against Barcelona

Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) and Sir Alex Ferguson

OLE Gunnar Solskjaer said he wants to build a Manchester United team in the mould of his fellow 1999 Treble winners while adding he is not worried that Manchester City could surpass their achievement by winning the Quadruple.

Solskjaer is two weeks into his spell as permanent manager after penning a three-year deal to replace Jose Mourinho on a full-time basis.
He also said has learnt the subtle art of man-management from former boss Alex Ferguson and that he will not hesitate to plug in the ‘hairdryer’ to get the best out of his players.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Barcelona, Solskjaer said that working under Ferguson as a player and later as coach ensured he knew when to comfort his players and when to blast them like the fiery Scot.

Ferguson’s hairdryer treatment, where he stood nose-to-nose with a player while angrily critiquing their performance, has become part of English soccer folklore.

“Towards the end of my career I was more focused on what the manager said. You learn that there was a pattern to what he was saying,” Solskjaer told ESPN in an interview.

“He would put his arm around someone or go hard on someone to really get the best out of them. That’s what I learned from him the most — how he managed to get the best out of every single player.

“There’s a pattern to how he builds his team up to believe: ‘We are going to make this’. I’ve used some of his team talks. You’ve got to plan; you can’t just act on emotion.”

Meanwhile, Barcelona centre back returns to Old Trafford for the first time since he left Manchester United in 2008 to rejoin Barcelona, in Wednesday’s quarter-final first leg.

“I arrived at Manchester United a boy, and I left a man,” Pique said in a Player’s Tribune article.

“I walked into (Ferguson’s) office, and I was honest with him. I said, ‘Listen, I feel like I’ve lost your trust. Barcelona is my home. I want to go back. I hope you will let me go.'”

Pique returned to Barcelona for 5 million euros ($5.62 million) as a reserve with low expectations, but by the end of his first season under Pep Guardiola he had become a key player in the 2008-09 treble-winning side.

There have been ups and downs since, but seven La Liga titles, three Champions League wins and multiple other trophies decorate his honours list, as well as the 2010 World Cup victory with Spain.

Pique has been in sublime form this campaign, driving his side towards another league title, although the trophy the squad wants to win most is the Champions League.

With coach Ernesto Valverde resting the 32-year-old for the first time all season in Spain’s top flight, Barcelona shipped four goals in a 4-4 draw with Villarreal last week.

The defender returned to shut out Atletico Madrid in a 2-0 win on Saturday that left Barca 11 points clear with seven matches remaining and attention now turning to Old Trafford.

“I’m coming back to my second home,” wrote Pique on Twitter after the Champions League draw in March pitted Barcelona and United together.

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