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“..and Solskjaer has won it,” shouted the commentator after the Norwegian toe poked the ball in the injury time past the Bayern Munich goalkeeper in the 1999 Champions League final, and created an eternal moment, which would always be etched into Manchester United fans’ hearts forever.
It was 17 years to the day when United, linked with England sensation Alan Shearer at that time, signed a certain unknown Norwegian, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, from Molde for 1.5 million pounds. And despite his low signing fee, eyebrows were raised on the decision to buy a rookie instead of a proven league goal scorer.
Solskjaer was brought to Old Trafford with a view to play second fiddle, especially in his first season, behind established frontrunners Eric Cantona and Andy Cole, so as to ease him into the rigours of the Premier League. But before the commentators could roll out his introduction to the uninitiated, Solskjaer scored within minutes of his debut after coming on as a substitute(what else!) against Blackburn Rovers.
Within few weeks of his arrival at United, he became a fans’ favourite and it became clear that he would become an integral part of the first team sooner than had been anticipated and would also come out as a bargain buy of the season.
His lethal goal scoring abilities saw him score an impressive 18 goals during his debut season, a tally bettered only by Alan Shearer and Ian Wright and helped United win the title. His moment of the season came when he scored four goals within twelve minutes after coming on as a second half substitute in 8-1 thrashing of Nottingham Forest.
Solskjaer, nicknamed ‘Baby-faced assasin’ by the Bristish media, for his youthful looks and deadly finishing, will perhaps always be remembered as a ‘super sub’ for his ability to come on late during the matches and score either a crucial winner or a equaliser. Sir Alex revealed that Solskjaer had a knack of sitting on the bench and analysing the opposition play without taking his eye off the game, which was acknowledged by Solskjaer himself when he said, “”I had to think about myself, how can I do the most damage for the opposition if I come on. I sat there and I studied football games but I didn’t exactly analyze their strikers, instead , I would pay attention to what the defenders and full-backs were doing wrong”
His following campaign was hampered by injuries, only managing to score six goals during 1997/98 season. But his defining moment as a Manchester United player came in the following season.
United had already won the league and the FA cup, and were going for the treble in the Champions league final against Bayern Munich. Teddy Sheringham scored an injury time equaliser and it looked as though match was going into the extra time. Solskjaer, however, had other ideas. A David Beckham corner was flicked on by Sheringham onto the path of Solskjaer who, as ever, was at the right place at the right time, and scored the treble winning goal for United. “And nobody will ever win a European Cup final more dramatically than this,” concluded the commentator, and thereby adding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s name into United’s and football’s folklore forever.