Manchester United fans and the commentators shouted “Solskjaer has won it!” on the night in Barcelona when he nicked in the ball to help Ferguson’s side win the treble against Bayern Munich.
Twenty-two years later, the club website announced the departure of the legend as a banal parting statement and best wishes.
“It’s been a ball….If there’s anywhere, I’m going to watch football games, that’s at Old Trafford. I’ll watch them and support them,” Ole said in his last interview at the club and left with smile he arrived with and, a few tears followed like Schrodinger’s nostalgia wrapped in a box of Premier League defeats.
The pressure of being a Manchester United manager after Sir Alex Ferguson has been a job with the sack hanging over the neck since the Scotsman left Old Trafford. The late bloomer, David Moyes, the Dutch Talisman, Louis Van Gaal or the Special One, Jose Mourinho, struggled to settle in and leave a lasting impression.
In eight years, the team has changed four managers, something it had not done in 27 years before that. The inability in management is clear. The pandemonium, clearer.
Solskjaer arrived at United at a time when the team was grasping for breath under a manager who was struggling with results, and demanding respect instead of answering question to the press.
The Norwegian brought in a philosophy opposite to that. United, scored 12 goals in its first three games under Solskjaer, beat Paris Saint-Germain in its own turf and remained unbeaten in the league till March.
In fact, the 48-year-old, who was appointed as caretaker manager, did not just do well, but did so well that his former teammates started insisting that he must be given a full-time job at the club. When he got the role, his performance dropped with a 23 per cent drop in points per game.
Ole was right to say that it was time to step aside, because he had failed to live up to the club’s expectations.
The silver lining remained his re-introduction of an attacking tendency into a squad. Under him, United scored the most goals per match, but he failed where his tutor focussed – defense.
After playing alongside defenders like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Jaap Stam, Solskjaer spent £171 million to create one, but it was decapitated by its rivals with his defensive record remaining the second worst after Moyes.
The ‘20Legend’ enjoyed a liberty more than any manager in the post-Ferguson era, with respect to not just patience, but with more money, more players.
In terms of spending, the Norwegian was given the liberty to spend over a 130 million pounds in a post-COVID-19 scenario in the summer, with the club suffering a net loss of £92.2 million.
The result: heavy losses to Liverpool, Manchester City and an eighth position in the league.
Solskjaer had the second-best winning percentage at 54.8 per cent behind Mourinho’s 58.3 per cent, but his losing percentage was the second worst (24.4%) with only Moyes above him (29.4%).
His performance in decisive games have been widely disappointing, which includes four semifinal losses and a Europa League final loss to the first-time winner Villarreal.
The Norwegian left United as the first trophyless manager in the post-Ferguson era, with Mourinho topping the list with three followed by Moyes and Van Gaal with one each.
Solskjaer brought with himself mushy memories of 1999, a fugacious counter attacking philosophy, a plan to revamp the team and the treble goal cherry on top.
Three years later, the baby-faced assassin left with a few narrow final and semifinal losses, bleary-eyed messages on social media and an empty, dark trophy cabinet.