Gary Neville Talks Solskjaer's Return

By Gary Neville Jan 10, 2014

Vincent Tan hasn’t particularly covered himself in glory recently. To be fair I think the whole episode between him and Malky Mackay was just unsavoury, and it wasn’t good for football. The saga was protracted, it was in public, and it didn’t portray anybody in a good light at all. What I know about Ole Gunnar Solskjær is that he’s studious, he’s intelligent and he’s clever. Knowing him as an individual, he’ll have everything squared off at his end to make sure that he’s able to manage the club in absolutely the way that he wants to, and I’m sure that he won’t accept any interference.

A lot of owners are currently trying to look at something different. They’re willing to take a chance on younger coaches. For me it’s a positive step, Ole loves English football and he loves the Premier League. I think he’s turned down one or two jobs, maybe more, in the top flight of English football in the last couple of years that haven’t been right for him because of timing. The thing for me about Ole is that there is a ‘sensibleness’ about him that he seems to be in control of his pathway, rather than the pathway controlling him.

He decided that he was going to work at Manchester United in the reserve set up for a period of time to learn his trade and complete his badges. He then went into a job back in Norway outside of the spotlight of the Premier League and out of the firing line. He learnt his trade a little bit and whilst obviously there was a pressure on him at his hometown club, he selected a good owner, he had a guy who believed in him and believed in the club.

A lot of people would have suggested that it wasn’t the right move for him, but he believes in himself. Managers have to make big decisions, and to be clinical in decision making, and I think that’s something he’s proven with his success in Norway. He’s driven to the point where he won’t let someone stand in the way of something he wants to achieve.

He was the kind of player that would write down all the training sessions when he was coming towards the end of his career. Even after he had retired and moved up to coaching, I used to see him around the club all the time… I remember one time him playing a game in a reserve team match and him saying he’s playing a 4-2-2-2 system, I was thinking: "I’ve never heard of that before! Two midfield players in front of a back four then two in front of that and two in front of that! How’s that going to work? Who is going to move wide?"

He was then talking about flexibility of systems and players moving into wide areas. Even in those early stages of his coaching career he wanted to try things that at that time I’d never heard of. At the time I sort of half giggled at him and half laughed but that’s the way his mind thinks, but he does think about things that are outside of the box. Probably in 12 months of him retiring from playing and moving into management, the system of playing through the middle, with the fullbacks providing the width had been employed in Manchester United reserves. He does try things and I think that’s what owners want nowadays. They want a manager who’s going to take them to that next level.

As for Vincent Tan, he’s on his second chance here in terms of Solskjӕr. If he did to Ole what he did to Malky Mackay, it would be more difficult for him to attract a young, progressive football coach in the future. So in terms of that I’m hopeful that Ole gets the length of time that he deserves, and I know full well that he thinks about what he’s doing, he thinks about the game - he’s a thinking man’s person.

I think that the first port of call for a manager - they need people who they can trust and rely upon. Ole will have built up trust with a couple of players that he’ll want to bring in – but that’s no different to any other manager. The Scandinavian market will be one that he thinks he knows rather well, and we can see with the signing of Magnus Wolff Eikrem that it is something he’s going to do.

He’s known Eikrem for a long time, he’s a skillful player and someone who can control the ball. He’s developed as a footballer since he’s left United and Ole knows him very well. On the plus side from a FUT perspective, they’re both Norwegian and if you apply a Manager League Switch item to your Solskjær item transferring him to the Barclays Premier League, then you will benefit from the chemistry boost you receive on the player.

Finally, with FIFA announcing their World XI on Monday and subsequently the Team of the Year in-forms arriving in Ultimate Team, the guys at EA SPORTS asked me for my personal TOTY.

Goalkeeper:
Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich

Defenders:
Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich
Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
Dante, Bayern Munich
David Alaba, Bayern Munich

Midfielders:
Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bayern Munich Thomas Müller
Bayern Munich Arturo Vidal, Juventus

Forwards:
Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich
Lionel Messi , Barcelona
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

And… my tip for Ballon d’Or: Ronaldo. 100% Cristiano.

My further thoughts on Messi and Ronaldo can be seen below…