Ole Gunnar Solskjær remembers the brief instruction uttered by Sir Alex Ferguson as he waited to step out on to the Camp Nou turf for the closing stages of the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
Last roll of dice
Manchester United FC were still trailing to Mario Basler's sixth-minute strike for FC Bayern München and Solskjær's 81st-minute introduction was a last roll of the dice. "We had made an habit out of scoring goals late in games that season, I scored a few of them so he didn't need to say anything. He just said, 'Go and do what you can do'," Solskjær recalled.
What happened next was the most dramatic climax in the history of the European Champion Clubs' Cup final. Bayern ribbons were already being applied to the trophy when, with 90 minutes on the clock, Teddy Sheringham struck United level following a David Beckham corner. With extra time beckoning, Beckham swung over another corner, Sheringham flicked the ball on and Solskjær stuck out a boot to scoop it into the roof of the net.
From a distance of ten years, the memories of that moment, of sliding on to his knees in celebration and being mobbed by his team-mates, have become a blur. "I can't really remember everything from exactly when I scored the goal or the celebrations. I remember players who had been substituted coming to celebrate, we were all celebrating a fantastic night," he said. With his goal, United had become the first English club to claim the treble of league, FA Cup and European Cup. "The best thing was the party afterwards, it was such a celebration.
"Of course I will always be remembered for scoring that goal," he added. "It did not make me a better footballer, which was my main priority at the time, but now, ten years after, I realise how big a moment it was for the club." For Solskjær, now reserve-team manager at Old Trafford after his retirement in 2007, that goal sealed his reputation as the supersub par excellence. That 1998/99 season he hit eight of his 18 goals after springing off the bench – four in a 19-minute appearance at Nottingham Forest FC and a last-minute FA Cup winner against Liverpool FC. Did the former Norwegian international, now 36, ever regret his supersub status? "Maybe at the time when I was young I wanted to play more, but I made the decision to just put my career in the manager's hands and do what he said. Looking at the results I cannot complain about that decision."
A decade on and Sir Alex is getting the best out of a new generation of United players. Solskjær's admiration for this "fantastic manager" is obvious as he lists the Scot's attributes. "The knowledge of football, the experience, but also the hunger – he always wants to win, he wants to be the best. The way he treats his players, he manages them." And how does this latest crop compare with his 1999 vintage? "I was lucky enough to play in that 1999 team, it was the best team I ever played with, but at the moment we have a fantastic squad always challenging for trophies." With a third successive Premier League title under their belts, Solskjær is optimistic they can now retain their European crown with victory over FC Barcelona. "Of course I believe in Manchester United. We have a fantastic team who play great football and when it comes to the end of the season our experience could help us."
The UEFA Champions League final falls ten years and a day after United's Camp Nou triumph – which some of their supporters may claim as an omen. Solskjær said: "I hope so. It was a good omen for us in 1999 as it was Sir Matt Busby's birthday the day we won. He would have been 90. The club have made a tradition of making history at right time." Timing is something Solskjær knows all about.
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