Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to get Manchester United back where they belong after being given his dream job on a permanent basis.
A move that seemed inevitable for weeks was made official on Thursday morning when it was confirmed the fans’ favourite had signed a three-year deal after an amazing spell as caretaker manager, with 14 wins in 19 games.
Initially seen as a capable stop-gap appointment following Jose Mourinho’s sacking, Solskjaer has implemented a return to winning attacking football, utilising exciting players and young talent.
It has put United back in the top-four hunt, while a remarkable win at Paris St Germain has kept their Champions League dreams alive, and it is that work – rather than fan popularity – that has resulted in his full-time appointment.
Molde, the club Solskjaer was due to return to as manager in the summer, are understood to be receiving a six-figure sum as a goodwill gesture, while there is also the possibility of a future friendly with the Norwegian club and potential partnership cultivation.
With the drive to take United back to the top, 1999 treble hero Solskjaer said: “I’m just going to be myself as I’ve always been.
“I know the expectations of the club, the traditions of the club, the history we’ve got.
“Of course, I want to be successful, of course, I want to lift trophies, but I can’t wait to get onto the job, onto the challenge of improving this great bunch of players because it’s a squad full of potential.
“I worked with them – or we have as a staff – for three months and the improvement is there to be seen.
“We know there’s so much more to come from them, we can see so much more improvement.
Elite mentality from the boss 👊 #MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 28, 2019
“We see them every single day in training, the attitude has been fantastic, but we know we’ve got a way to go.
“But lifting a trophy, I am sure, will be a success.”
Predecessor Mourinho lifted the Europa League and EFL Cup in his first season, but cracks began to form after his second campaign as eye-catching summer comments were compounded by background back-biting.
The downturn in fortunes on the field and questions over discipline are also understood to have concerned the powers that be, with United great Solskjaer proving to be the perfect antidote.
The 46-year-old, who represented the club as player and reserve team coach during his first spell, has helped reset the culture, with his man-management and approachable style impressing as much as results.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 28, 2019
Small details like getting the players to wear suits to games have been viewed positively, along with a public persona in stark contrast to his predecessor.
“To lift the Premier League trophy again is what we expect, what we’re used to, what we have done so many times,” Solskjaer said.
“We can’t wait for too many years, but we have to take it step by step. It’s not like it’s going to happen overnight, catching 15, 16, 17 points or whatever we are behind the top teams now.”
The new United boss struck the right tone between short-term success and long-term requirements at his unveiling at Old Trafford, where his standard cheery manner came with a more authoritative edge.
Solskjaer spoke about his summer transfers plans, just as he has with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, and hopes to have signings in place before pre-season gets underway with a July trip to Australia.
Furthermore, he has opened the exit door to anyone that is not ready to fight each and every game for United.
“Players who get complacent never last at this club anyway,” he said. “Managers… I’m the same.
“I can’t rest on ‘Well, I’ve got a job’. That’s not me. We’re looking forward, we’ve got to work harder.
“I’ve got some targets. I would want a Man United team that’s one of the hardest working teams in the league, the fittest teams in the league and that will then bring results
“I think the players know my expectations on the future.”
For now, though, Solskjaer can enjoy the fruits of the last three months’ labour.
Sir Alex Ferguson was one of the first people he spoke to after being approached about the full-time role, while he intends to keep the same backroom team together as assistant Mike Phelan speaks to the club.
“I’ve dreamt about it and maybe visualised it myself, as I did as a player,” Solskjaer said of the job.
“We’ve had three months and now we’re here permanent.
“The players have responded fantastically to us coming in and we’re just looking forward to working together, to improve the players and the club.”