Ferguson was delighted that Solskjaer returned to Old Trafford in late 2018
Sir Alex Ferguson partied into the early hours of the morning over getting his club “back” after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as Manchester United manager in December 2018, it has been revealed. The Norwegian has opened up on his early text message conversations with his former mentor in a new book to be published by Reach PLC.
Solskjaer is one of several Premier League managers to have spoken at length for a new book called The First 100 Days: Lessons In Leadership From The Football Bosses, which will be released this week.
Co-written by Micky Mellon, who is in charge of Scottish Premiership outfit Dundee United having previously managed Fleetwood Town, Shrewsbury Town and Tranmere Rovers, and a school head teacher named Phil Denton, the book looks into the first 100 days for managers at new clubs.
Ex-United boss David Moyes, now in charge of West Ham, and West Brom and former England head coach Sam Allardyce as well as Burnley tactician Sean Dyche are among the other top-flight coaches to have sat down with the pair.
And in a chapter of the book, which releases this Thursday (March 25), Mellon and Denton spoke to Solskjaer about the early days of his return to Old Trafford in late 2018.
The 48-year-old came back to his old club initially as caretaker manager after Jose Mourinho had been axed following a disappointing string of results.
The Portuguese’s tenure ended with a 3-1 defeat to rivals Liverpool at Anfield in a result that left United on 26 points from 17 matches, 19 off of the league-leading Reds and 11 off of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Solskjaer played for 11 years at United under Ferguson between 1996 and 2007
United appointed Solskaer as interim boss in Mourinho’s place with his club Molde allowing the Norwegian to head back to Manchester to see out the rest of the season on loan.
Solskjaer spent over a decade as a player at United and scored 126 goals in 366 appearances under the legendary Ferguson and was also the manager of the club’s reserves before taking over at Molde.
And Ferguson was delighted to have Solskjaer back at the club given the struggles David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho had endured in the hot-seat since his 2013 retirement, although the latter two both won trophies while in charge.
So much so, the Scot – now 79 and who spent 26 years at United winning 38 trophies – sent his former striker a text message soon after his appointment to admit he had been out all night partying in celebration at the news of his appointment.
Things soured for ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid boss Mourinho in Manchester after he missed out on several transfer targets in the summer of 2018 and dire results followed as the atmosphere at the club grew toxic.
In The First 100 Days: Lessons In Leadership From The Football Bosses, Solskjaer told Mellon and Denton of the state of the squad when he took over: “It was a bit like going to Waitrose or Tesco. You spend 90 quid or 100 quid. Then you get home and try to make a meal but you’ve just got a bit of everything instead of what you need to make a good meal.
Mourinho was sacked as United boss in December 2018
“When I arrived, some of the players had been here since Sir Alex, then David [Moyes] had signed a few, then Van Gaal signed a few, then Mourinho signed a few and they’ve all got different styles.
“Our group had so many different strengths but not many were what we would think of as Manchester United players.
“These are players that have pace, power and personality. We’re influenced by Sir Alex and that’s what our opinion of a Manchester United player is.”
And the extract continues: “After a packed first day [in the job] which culminated in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer visiting the staff Christmas party, day two would be no less intense for one of the highest profile managerial roles in the football world.
“On 21st December, 2018, United travelled to their team hotel near Cardiff in preparation for their first game under the stewardship of Solskjaer.
“The first day had been a roaring success and the love for Ole around the club was tangible. The question was, how would that translate to the players’ performance on the pitch?
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“I got a text from the manager [Sir Alex] who said: ‘Pick your team and sleep well.’ I sent him the players I was picking and I just got a message back: ‘That’ll do the job.’
“The very next day, it took only three minutes for a new-look United to race into a 1-0 lead. ‘Marcus crashed that free-kick home in three minutes and the whole thing felt like it had changed,’ said Ole. ‘We just went 4-3-3 and told the players to be free and express themselves.’
The First 100 Days: Lessons In Leadership From The Football Bosses releases this week
“Eventually, United would run out 5-1 winners away from home. It was a sensational start that showed a belief from the players and a joy that their new manager had a faith in them and a love for the club that they could now represent as a team.
“The ovation from the crowd showed that United’s huge away following emphatically approved of their new manager. He had shown from day one that he was one of them and he stood for what they believed in.
“Early on the 23rd December, the day after the big win at Cardiff, Ole received the ultimate accolade via a text message. ‘I’ve been out all night celebrating getting my club back.’
“The sender? Solskjaer’s mentor, father in football and United legend, Sir Alex Ferguson.”
Solskjaer won his first eight matches as United boss and was won 14 of his first 19 games before being handed the gig on a permanent basis in March 2019.
United finished the season sixth following a poor end to the campaign which resulted in just one win from their final seven games, and they were also dumped out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals and lost to Wolves in the same stage of the FA Cup.
Solskjaer remains in charge at United and has overseen 137 games as Red Devils boss
Man Utd: What pressure is Solskjaer under?
Solskjaer’s first full season saw United finish third, albeit 33 points behind champions Liverpool, and they lost in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Europa League.
This year, United are on course to come second in the league and currently trail rivals Manchester City by 14 points having played one match less, with nine still to play for the Red Devils.
In the cups however Solskjaer’s side once again fell at the semi-final stage of the Carabao Cup and were dumped out of the FA Cup in the last eight at the weekend by Leicester.
They have a favourable Europa League quarter-final draw against Granada after which they will take on either Roma or Ajax in the semis as they look to go one better than last year, when they lost in the final four to eventual champions Sevilla.
After the current international break, United return to action against Brighton on Easter Sunday (April 4, 7.30pm kick-off) before taking on Granada away from home in the first leg of their European tie with the Spanish side.
You can purchase The First 100 Days: Lessons In Leadership From The Football Bosses from the Reach PLC Sport shop with 25 per cent off the £10.99 RRP. Co-authors Mellon and Denton are donating their proceeds from the book to charity.