Gary Pallister, David May and Ben Thornley have been reflecting on their first memories of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who signed for Manchester United on this day, 24 years ago.Of course, Ole went on to become one of our sharpest shooting strikers during his time at Old Trafford, and a firm fans’ favourite.
But, as the trio of former Reds reminisced, not many of the squad expected that skinny 23-year-old to become an instant hit when they first laid eyes on him back in 1996.
“I remember him walking into the dressing room and I thought he looked about 16,”
said Pallister, speaking on Wednesday’s episode of MUTV Group Chat.
“I honestly thought he was coming to join the youth team or something like that.
“But I remember that first training session and the ball came to him and he hit the target. Then he hits the target again, and then again, and then you start looking at him and thinking: ‘Wow, this kid has got something different’.
“It was just amazing to see how often he hit the target – he didn’t always score, but he made the goalkeeper work. It made you sit up and take notice of Ole at the time.”
Pally wasn’t the only United defender in that squad who struggled to contain the ambitious young forward, as Maysie explained.
“He was just a young whipper-snapper coming into the first team and us not knowing [who he was] because he came in with Ronny [Johnsen], Pobs [Karel Poborsky] and Jordi [Cruyff] I think, but of the four, he was the Baby-faced Assassin as he came to be known,”
said the former centre-back.
“The amount of goals Ole used to score between your legs. You’d curse at him and shout at him, but it’s a gift. It used to annoy you because you thought you had him and he’d put it through your legs.”
Not as much as it upset [Peter] Schmeichel,”
added Pallister, with a chuckle.
“He did used to get a tad annoyed at shooting practice!
“But he had the eye of a shooter, Ole. He became stronger and he understood the Premier League and became a better player. That season he played on the right-hand side and adapted to that and did really well as a right-winger.”
After a hugely promising first campaign, Solskjaer established himself as one of the most deadly finishers in the division in the years to come, as his old team-mate, Ben Thornley, can attest to.
“I remember him coming through the door and it was the same reaction as the two lads,”
said the ‘Class of ’92′ graduate.
“There wasn’t any of them [signings] I’d ever heard of, but that highlighted just how good Sir Alex Ferguson was, not just for bringing in players that he knew about and that had reputations, but also players he knew that could develop at Manchester United.
“The amount of goals that Ole scored, when you think about his goals-to-game ratio – because a lot of the time he came off the bench and scored great goals. One of them – and I was in the squad at the time – was when he scored four against Nottingham Forest in about 20 minutes.
“He was just so explosive and the amount of times he would let fly and he’d try and aim for the goalkeeper’s legs because he could hit the ball with such power that he didn’t have any time to move. Very often goalkeepers would get done by Ole through their legs.
“He was a great character to have in the dressing room, a lovely lad. What a superb striker!”