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  • #61
    In praise of... Ashley Young

    'Ashley Young isn't good enough to sign for Manchester United.'

    'Ashley Young isn't good enough to play for Manchester United'

    'Ashley Young isn't good enough to be a winger for Manchester United.'

    'Ashley Young isn't good enough to be a left-back for Manchester United.'

    'Ashley Young isn't good enough to play for England.'

    'Ashley Young isn't good enough to go to the World Cup with England.'

    Ashley Young has had to deal with quite a bit of criticism as a footballer, and that's not even covering the fall out from his reputation of going to ground rather easily.

    Your critique of his worth as a footballer however hasn't affected his desire or determination to prove the doubters wrong, and when facing questions at Manchester United, has brushed it off, never responded or moaned or used his agent for agenda, and with a commendable steel merely got on with it to try and prove the doubters were wrong.

    He may not convince all, but as others we could name with greater ability or a more natural style have struggled to cope with the demands and managerial requests to be a Manchester United footballer in the first team, he has managed to convince them all that he offers them something else, not least the ability, crucial in the modern game, to listen to instructions and carry them out.

    Jose Mourinho may have faults, but stupidity is not one of them and he choose Ashley Young to play at left-back as last season wore on not because he was the most gifted left-back he had at his disposal, but because he was the most able to carry out his instructions and stick to his plan. That plan may have raised eyebrows as the season wore on, but just like when he was placed as a forward under LvG, Young, who still sees himself as winger ahead of any other position, got on with it, realising that any position in the starting XI is one to seize rather than, as some do, rattle their cages about not playing in their preferred position.

    Likewise it is clear if Manchester United are to hunt the bigger trophies we fans want to be back in the running for, a natural fast and able left-back if Luke Shaw is not the answer is needed at the club, but Jose identifies Young as someone he suggests may feature in many more games for the club because he is one who is willing to not just fight for the opportunity but give all he can when he's got the nod.

    It is very easy in today's era to label someone as 'crap' in a throwaway, anonymous internet age where only last game and next matter, but United's best eras are littered with good squad options that offer versatility and form the backbone for the success that the star names then help convert and as Young clocked up his 150th league appearance for United at the end of last season covering four permanent managers, his surprise chance of making the squad for Russia suddenly didn't seem as debatable as he could, again, offer the versatility and fulfil Southgate's instructions that England may need in more tactical games.

    Even for this international cynic it was good to see him start against Tunisia and there comes a point that you perhaps have to stop doubting his inclusion, as Terry Butcher has had plenty to say about this week, and instead respect the many positives of why he's being selected in the first place. Start praising what he does actually offer, rather than what he doesn't.

    He's never shirked, even when it seemed as though he was on the fringes of Jose's thinking. As when he arrived at United: "I know it is going to be a challenge, but I'm up for that challenge." he has bided his time, awaited his chance and given his all, handled the periods that must be excruciating when he goes runs of matches only watching from the stands.

    That desire to accept the challenge at Utd seems a given, a strange thing to suggest any footballer might not do, but regular match going fans at Old Trafford since 2013 know otherwise. Attitude is huge in football. Why do you think he's still at our club?

    Nemanja Matic and Ashley Young might not pull up any houses, but they, along with Lukaku, are the ones who became the cornerstone of Jose's selection as last season dragged on - and it did by its end, to the point where some fans like I wished it over - because they did the job they were asked to do. The plan itself may raise debates, but clearly some others were not able to listen, buckle down, get on with it, and follow them.

    In the modern era more will be needed at left-back, and the opposing side of the pitch as well, but Young being the stick to beat Jose's at times uninspiring football is perhaps too easy a target. The defence may scare us with its inconsistency, the next mistake only a train stop away, but it was a defence that only conceded 28 goals all season in the league, just one more than the quadruple winners and boat race winners across town. Maybe though we think it, our defence was not as bad as we made out?

    Some may suggest I have a vested interest. Young is good to this fanzine. When a reader got in touch to say his father had terminal cancer, Young heard about it, got in touch and offered an executive box for a game in a move which will never be forgotten by that family. On another occasion after the FA Cup victory after Crystal Palace he asked, as he hoped, that Utd fans were enjoying themselves that night and partying away. That's not to curry favour, for being nice to this fanzine doesn't sit well with the suits high above, more our theory that he joined this great club of ours but also got this great club of ours. Realised it was something special, how lucky he was to be at it, playing for it, and would give a nod here or there to the people who follow it whenever they can knowing that it's never too much, little is huge if you're a football fan.

    Of course he's lucky to be left-back at Manchester United, every single player is lucky enough to be playing for, well, this great club of ours. But perhaps we should turn the doubts and questions around and instead, whilst of course always demanding better signings and better football, appreciate a player who never threw his toys out of the pram, got it, got on with it, and got his head down to follow the instructions of whoever is in charge of him as manager of Manchester United.

    Maybe we appreciate how decent a season he had, where we didn't see that many United players improve themselves as he did.

    He may not prove the doubters wrong, but he's proved where an attitude of commitment and determination may get you at this club, and with England, where it's not the ability you have but what you do with it and your mental approach.

    A young player dreaming of playing for United and England would do worse than to look at Young and realise where his attitude has taken him.

    Manchester United players like having him around. So does Jose.

    Your view is your own, but when it looked like Young could be offski, he applied himself and the end result is a good - yes, good - season for our club and now playing at the World Cup.

    That's really good to see.

    'Ashley Young is good enough to be at Manchester United and at the World Cup with England'.

    20th June 2018
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    • #62
      In memory of United fan Rob Ferrari, a dear friend, who died a year ago.

      22nd January 1969 - 6th September 2017.

      I was a bit of a nervy kid. I wasn’t particularly interested in much going on at school, a late learner shall we say, and for much of secondary school kept myself to myself, a few friends to talk football with, but not many knowing about my ‘other’, much more enjoyable life.

      I pretty much lived for my Utd life. Still do, I suppose, but my son has given me some perspective at last. I was a right lucky bastard in that my Mum had taken me to Old Trafford at 5, I’d picked up my first addiction in life and wanted it fed. She took me occasionally, then often, then all the time, and still I’d space out on a Friday baffled by biology, and count down the hours until it was the train and a whole new world - a new universe - to the game.

      Because there was this set of people. The Cockney Reds. A right mix, and that’s putting it mildly, of pisscans, scarfers, oddballs, hooligans and all in between. On a good day it would be the high hundreds and just like at the wider community at the game itself, bar the odd disagreements, there was a real sense of belonging in the different groups and between them. It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s true, this was my first real education in life. The nervy kid became no more seeing all sorts and all sorts happen on those journeys.

      I’d love to do a book on the characters, not just one, but all of them. But for a time anything went.

      These weren’t the days anymore of big groups of rival fans waiting at Euston every match for those that wanted to Queensbury rules with each other outside, so the skirmishes if not at the match would happen on the train. Like now I’m not much of a lover but certainly no fighter but as a kid from 8 upwards I would watch terrified and then amazed at some of the scraps these groups of lads would have with each other. It was another distant world to now, where a train toilet bleeps when a wrong button is pressed.

      West Ham in the Cup and a Red was stabbed. Millwall and Utd getting on at different stations and fire extinguishers used. It was a different world, and though not mine, I did not depart it fearful, because you could, if you wanted to avoid it, avoid it. But people looked after you, if Reds felt you were in danger you’d be protected and the wider journeys were special, unique days. Carriages full of these different groups where every game was an event, a selection of memories and stories. I didn’t like seeing the trouble, I certainly didn’t tell my teachers in a ‘what did you do at the weekend’ essay competition, but I was being educated and these people were becoming characters I knew. And liked. For much of the 1980s, any one journey from London to Manchester would have enough to keep Ken Loach going for a year.

      And as I grew older, leaving school and relishing the opportunity to earn a few quid with a real job as I started this fanzine at 16 and would type the pages up hiding them away when my bosses came around the bookshops I actually worked at, you began to migrate to the people you most had a laugh with and whose company suited you. I did my first euro away on a trip to the Dam - not on the ferry but that eventful week in the mid 80s - and bloody hell did that teach me more, not all good!
      I felt a buzz being 16 with older lads and a few helped me out, taught me more, and the likes of Mum and Zar - even with all his angry ways - telling me don’t ever let the bullies win and certainly don’t take bollocks off of anyone, led me through that tricky age. I’m veering into football fan autobiography land here - without the tales of my own trouble and 4 of us taking on 400 but there was a code and a sense of belonging and they were some of the happiest days of my life. An away day with United in the late 80s, with the 1000s following, was a lotto small win, which could climb up to 4 or 5 numbers depending on the progress of the day. Sheffield Wednesday, Forest and Coventry away and you’ve cracked the jackpot.

      My circle became wider. Sean, Fat Kev, Eddie, Fred, John, Veg, a fair few more and then this lad on one train journey who was betting at cards with people he shouldn’t have, far cannier and older as beer and bravado had got the better of him and he was increasing the stake as we were fearing for his! The eventual slump as they took him to the cleaners saw a few of us say come for a beer when the train got in. Because the day and game could be a prelude to the main event of the night itself. In towns hosting United, Manchester or London as we ended up in some right states, with some right states, in some right odd gaffs at 3, 4 or 5 am - not in the days when bars could open that late, but I’d developed a sense of smell for the seediest and ropiest gaffs that didn’t care for such niceties as closing times and would keep serving us fish drinkers our swill.

      Rob like us all could be a bit of a tool, he had his moments like we all can, but he was funny, generous and could make a night bloom. We welcomed him into our ragtag bunch and as Utd improved so did our wages and our lives as we were becoming men, or so we thought. The best of times at Utd started and the best of the times of our lives. We started to do every game, this bunch, and in those days, every game seemed an event, so we’d spend two days for Hereford in the Cup, could get away with it then, little responsibilities, those that we did have, pushed aside. Loads stayed down and over for matches, and then we were off and running thanks to the genius of Fergie and in 1991 me and Rob became more than friends, we became euro away room-mates and all the barminess that can entail. We’d take a week to get to Montpellier and back, a week for Rotterdam, even Barca ’94. We thought those days would never end, and I still part wish they hadn’t.

      Of course we had some growing up to do but that could wait. We felt invincible and for an iota of time we were. We danced the line but tried not to cross it but it was the time when England was changing, rave culture and all that. I crossed that line more than Rob and I was glad he could, only a few times, be a bit more sensible than me and lead me back to the path. We didn’t worry about what came next, just what was now, and it was an age where you felt you are the world rather than an outsider pondering what the fuck it’s now all about. It was a world that had none of the technology of now, but coped well enough. Seriously we had fun!

      We laughed in a lot of countries. We’d meet up on non matchdays. We met Friday night, Saturday and sometimes on a Sunday. We’d have girlfriends that may come and go but that United Road kept us by its side; it’s all I’ve ever done, what else can I do, it’s the only job I’m capable of keeping and having and I’d wake up on a Sunday morning with an 8 foot chicken nugget sign in my bedroom and have to ring Rob and ask why. We’d found out the doors were left open for the cleaners at the fastfood place next to our local to come in on the Sunday morning in more innocent times, so the next week we went back and invited a few local tramps to come in and help themselves (tills were closed and no, we wouldn’t have) to the cheese and bread that was left behind. God knows what the cleaner found that Sunday morning.

      The days did end of course. You get a little bit more normal as you get older, and the carriages of scores of Reds are now a few old faces and dinosaurs and very few new ones that get it, and you have families and more responsibility and though some do it all, you get happy that you can do some. Mine and Rob’s last proper hurrah was in 1999. Another week. For old time’s sake, straight after the FA Cup Final, 20 of us via Magaluf and a magical few nights in a place where that isn’t uttered very often via the plane to Barcelona and the greatest of nights. Topped off with about 200 of us heading to a bar we knew from 1994 that - thank fuck - by chance was still the same and stayed open until 7am, locals joining in with our party to end all parties. We danced, sang, cheered and the pic from Veg sums Rob up at his happiest and best. Centre of things, loving it. His face from the Semi in Turin as he held up the first edition paper after the night celebrating I wish I did have a picture of still. In his element. Buzzing.

      He was having a family and said he’d seen it all, they came first, and it was time to retire. I did try to argue it would never be as good but it could still be very good - as Moscow showed - but there’s a part of me that understood and perhaps a little bit envied that single mindedness and though of course he was always still a Red, and as passionate, and did the odd game here and there, and loved Utd, his days on that train, and the Utd train were gone.

      I saw him the night before the Rome Final in Ostia, with his family, and a few of us had a great night. Him still the same, remembering and laughing and me at times moaning at all the changes and the faces no longer going and wishing a bit of it could still be more like it once was. We had one last train journey where he was amazed how calm and sterilised the journey let alone the football ground was. And then as I had a kid you forget to text or meet up. Fuck me, why didn’t I. Regrets.
      And then on holiday a few weeks ago I got the horrible news that Rob had died. This lovely fella, with so much life still ahead of him and so much to share with his lovely family was never going to crack a joke again, take the piss or just be Rob. It was heartbreaking and I remain stunned, sad, and find it surreal, that life’s dance can be so horrible at times as much as when it’s good it can be so enjoyable.

      It’s not for me to try and make sense of it all. Just to say Utd gave us sense, order, purpose and so much. There are a few dear Reds no longer with us now to make me appeal that you are not alone, that you are always loved and if you feel alone, please reach out to someone, as people are there to speak to - and and @MindCharity are two such ways. There is help out there.

      And to younger Reds, enjoy these times because they can still be so magical for you, the mates you will make via this great club of ours, the occasions, trips, highlights and trying to help each other through the low times - it is still a community worth fighting for and finding and whilst us oldies tell us those were better times, it’s up to you to prove us wrong and make these even better. Enjoy, live it all, do as much as you can. Have a laugh, don’t get bogged down in the shit and enjoy the journey, because there are so many stops, things to see, do, laugh at, every facet where of course the 90 minutes is the main event, but everything around it away from the shit, can be so fucking splendid. Have the journey!

      Memories have come flooding back, and it’s hard to stop, no Dam for the tears that follow sadly. Days of ringing each other on a landline and going into a travel agent to sort paper flight tickets. Hotels booked over the phone in pigeon French, looking at a large map spread across a bed or table in awe at where everything was, or could be.

      I remember being chased across a park by Juventus fans in the 90s with bloody huge knives and some plain clothes police saving us. Protected, Rob spotted one of their ultras wearing a York City shirt celebrating them beating us in the League Cup a while before. Rob’s laughing mock of ‘Fucking York City” kept us laughing all trip. “Fucking York City!”

      The likes of Rob don’t always get an obituary but they should. We all need a Rob in our lives; so loyal, funny, direct, at times like us all a bit annoying but what good mates doesn’t do your head in when you spend 24-7. He laughed, he lived. And boy did we live the 1990s. Every step of the way together as it turned out. A Red who it was a pleasure to know and share this.

      Obviously all of us there will always say we’d re-live 1999 again and again but can I add the proviso that I’d re-live the night actually after it too, as those beers held aloft like the players into the early hours were the icing on the cake and I’d turn to Rob during it all and say ‘thanks, you helped make that such a magical decade for me and made me smile so very often. And I miss you, like I do so many others now, so very, very much mate.’

      Rest in Peace.

      Thanks for reading this. And raise a glass to Rob Ferrari tonight if you can dear Reds.

      Gemma Crozier, his niece, is raising money for @MindCharity in memory of Rob, taking part in the Isle of Wight challenge - You can donate at
      New Red News 266 out 20th October 2019
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      Red News. Founded 1987. United's first fanzine. twitter @barneyrednews email: [email protected] There's nothing on Earth like being a Red


      • #63
        The Red News Exclusive Interview with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from RedNews242, for our 30th anniversary

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        February, 2017.
        Ole. 366 games, 150 as a sub. 29 goals scored as a sub, 97 goals from starting.
        126 goals in total. Lovely.

        RN: So how are you then?
        Ole: Good, good, preparing and looking forward for a new season (at Molde). It’s completely different because obviously the facilities here, you never know, for example today the under pitch heating didn’t work so it was broke and it was minus -2 so instead of being able to train outside we had to go into a 60 x 40 indoor hall so you’ve got to work day to day really. And it’s a long, long pre-season, friendlies in February and March and then we start the league on 1st April so I was used to it as a player, I remember thinking because it was really hard period of pre-season so we train maybe too long, too hard, loads of running, compared to now where we focus more on high intensity, shorter distances, so how to adapt. English pre-season sometimes the difference maybe 6-8 weeks, maximum 9, while here we have got pre-season for 12 weeks. And that’s probably the shortest one because we started a week or 10 days later than anyone else in Norway.

        RN: And how does it feel going back? Did it feel right?
        Ole: Yeah it does, it’s great just working with players day in, day out, players who want to improve, to develop, players here are dreaming to play abroad, play in England, Germany, so you’ve got 100% attitude every single day, so too many players, say in the Championship then, they’ve got enough money, they are comfortable where they are and it’s not about stepping out of the comfort zone it’s just ticking over.

        RN: Sir Alex often said that you were observing the game on the bench, is that true, were you taking it all in?
        Ole: Yeah, I think so. Because first of all I was privileged to be involved in what I was involved in so I felt no, there was not many times I sat on the bench thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore’. I was there and I was always ready to get on and most of the times I would get on because if we were losing the Gaffer would change because he knew the affect I might have just both on supporters, our own team and the opposition team because we built like an image, like a myth that when he came on he scored goals! Then again if we were winning 2-0, he just gave me 20-30 minutes at the end or at half-time because he wanted to keep us all happy so a 1-0 win was probably the worst result! He wouldn’t put me on! Laughs.

        RN: So were you observing the tactical side or positioning, what was it?
        Ole: I was just mentally preparing for the game. It’s a bit of a myth that I was analysing the lot but I did come on and of course I watched the game so I did see which one of the full-backs was slow or which one of the centre-backs I could beat in the air, really important things, you can find spaces, find weaknesses so in a sense it’s true and in another it’s a bit more exaggerated if you know what I mean. That’s the way I am. I can spot the players quite quickly.
        RN: So you’re sussing that now as a manager? And passing that advice on to the players?
        Ole: Yeah of course. It’s one of those things that I’ve always got with me that I can use to my substitutes, that you might be able to change the game, you’ve got to do this, that or the other, you’ve got to not sulk. No point sulking to me because I know what it’s like, I never sulked. There’s absolutely no point in feeling sorry for yourself because it won’t help you.

        RN: Did it piss you off the ‘supersub’ tag because you started a fair few too banging them in?
        Ole: To be fair it didn’t piss me off but obviously I realise after a while or towards the end of my career that I was the perfect sub for the Gaffer because he knew I was never pissed off or I would never sulk so when I came on it would have an affect on the game. He knew he could trust me as a squad player because I just did my best no matter what. Of course I enjoyed starting games but coming on and doing so well as a sub so many times, changed quite a few games, but it made my name and I’ll be remembered as a good sub.

        RN: More than that!
        Ole: But it doesn’t matter because at least you made a name for yourself. When I grew up there was only one or two subs back then, I remember David Fairclough came on for Liverpool quite often, I was happy doing the job that the Gaffer demanded and required from me.

        RN: There was one thing I have never seen you asked, Teddy and Andy Cole didn’t get on, so how was that for you as one of the players who was sometimes playing with both or alternating, was it uncomfortable?
        Ole: None whatsoever because what we did in our spare time and leisure time didn’t really matter and there was only in one argument, in one game and after that they still played as well as possible together, they never ever had a ‘no, I’m not going to pass to him’, absolutely no chance and the Gaffer sussed that out quickly, that he could trust them, they are top professionals - you don’t have to get on, you don’t have to go and have dinner with each other but when you play you play as well as you can play as a player and it never frustrated me, no. Never, ever.

        RN: Now looking back does it feel surreal that so much time has passed since, ’99 was 17 years ago! It just feels mental that…
        Ole: Yep! Time flies when you have fun! And I had 14 and a half years at United, absolutely fantastic but now I’m going into my… in the summer it’s 10 years since I retired so it’s gone really quickly. I’m not a person, I don’t like to sit down, and sit back and look back at what I did, I always want to make new memories for myself or make something happen but of course in the last, when my kids grow up now I have got Noah who is 16, Elijah will be 9 in the summer, Karna is 13 and it’s like, when they sing my song at Old Trafford, I get emotional, ’well they remembered Daddy! They do remember it still!’
        RN: Always!

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        RN: How much did Cardiff scar, are you glad you did it?
        Ole: I’m glad I did it. I’m very glad I did it because for me like an experience it was invaluable, you can’t learn in a coaching course, you’ve got to go out there and test yourself and do it. We might look back at it… I look back at it, well it was the wrong decision right now with hindsight to take that job, I’m sure Vincent Tan they look at it as they’ve, it was the wrong decision to hire Ole, but at the time for me it felt like the right move because if I could get the club going it would have been a great achievement because Vincent still wanted that club to be successful, it was a great chance for me.

        RN: Do you still see managing United as an aim? Or are you happy being happy without the stress of that huge job?
        Ole: I would have loved to have managed United, that’s my dream job and still is. That’s a dream job and when we came to Old Trafford with Cardiff, that’s the most surreal experience I’ve had. Without a shadow of a doubt. So the United supporters singing my song for about 75% of the game and I’ve got to be professional because I’m doing a job. We had a chance to get a result up there and my support, or the Cardiff supporters singing my song, it was such a surreal, difficult position to be in. Even though I was professional and we had a great chance, but it was just bad timing. Robin Van Persie came back, they’d just signed Mata… To have got the result at Old Trafford would have been… on Sunday when Warren (Joyce) was stood there (with Wigan) on the touchline, and he’s like, it’s a strange feeling. Because Man Utd does something to you, it’s not just a normal, everyday club, it scarred me for life! It touched me for life.

        RN: You still feel that connection?
        Ole. It never goes. Yeah. Oh! Now, when we’ve got the good times going again, with Zlatan is there now, Mkhitaryan, Paul is back, because I had Paul in the reserves, we’ve started to look like Man Utd again. We’ve got the big names, when we beat was it Boro, when Paul scored in extra-time, I was watching with my Noah and with 15 minutes to go ‘don’t worry Son, we’ll win this one, I’ve seen this before!’. It was New Years Eve wasn’t it? Then I said to him ‘I’ve watched these games so many times, don’t worry about it, we’ll win this’.

        RN: So you’re up celebrating when it goes in, jumping around?
        Ole: Yeah! So I text the Gaffer after that game ‘we’ve done that before, haven’t we!’, and he said ’yeah, we’ve done that a few times’, because we text him Happy Birthday, just like the old times.

        RN: What happened after Fergie, do you think that’s just what was going to happen whatever, how do you replace the greatest?
        Ole: It always happens. If you just look at every single club, at home with Rosenborg they had Nils Arne Eggen and they won the league for X amount of time, when he retires, downturn unfortunately, because he had that strong personality that everyone, there was so much respect there so that’s them, 3% or 4% that players will step off the gas a little bit because the Gaffer is not there, that’s enough in the top, top league to be 4th, or 5th.

        RN: And do you think Jose has cracked it and he will get it right and a 21st title?
        Ole: Yeah, oh we’ll get it, we’re on the road, we’re on the way again. Of course the league, it used to be between us and Arsenal to be fair when I played, and towards the end Chelsea came in there, now it’s Man City, now you’ve got Tottenham, Liverpool back in there with a shout and now it’s one of six. I’m sure that with the strength that we’ve got in the management team now, and the players we are attracting, that we are on the road.

        RN: Who was the team that you looked out for, the fixture that you wanted?
        Ole: Of course Liverpool. It’s the Liverpool game. That’s the first one you looked at. There was a couple of seasons when Man City were down in the Championship, and even League One I think wasn’t it?

        RN: Yep, ’99, brilliant…
        Ole: But it was the Liverpool game, home and away. Maybe especially away because you looked at that one and say ‘we have to beat them there’, and we did a few times!

        RN: I was on the top row, third tier, it’s still vivid, I can picture it all, is it still vivid for you in the Nou Camp?
        Ole: Yeah to be fair it is. Because I’ve seen the pictures so many times, I’ve seen the goal so many times…

        RN: How many times have you had to talk about it!
        Ole: So many times I’m asked to answer that question about ‘how did it feel’! So it’s still there and I can still remember my chat with Jim Ryan before the game and I tell him ‘something big is going to happen to me’. Everything in and around that game is quite easy to bring out memories.

        RN: How does it feel watching it with your kids now, now they are old enough to understand what you did?
        Ole: Of course you’re proud that you have been part of Man Utd’s maybe proudest moment.

        RN: Does it feel odd that many men have named their kids after you?!
        Ole: No. There are so many grown men that come to me and say ‘it’s the best moment of my life, don’t tell my wife and all that!’

        RN: It was though!
        Ole: Yeah. It does something to many people.

        RN: It did something demented, I still can’t explain it. We’re normal people but that sent us a bit deranged.
        Ole: Yeah I think so! Laughs.

        RN: I was at Charlton, and you came back and scored that goal after that injury, I have to say I didn’t think you’d come back, how satisfying was that little period, the swansong period? Was it hard, were you suffering badly?
        Ole: My knee was never 100% but it’s part of a story here now… that after my injury because Noah was, when I was injured, Noah was born 2000 and I got my injury in 2003 so he’s 3, then I made a comeback but it was not right, so he was 4 when I did the operation but my Dad used to be a Roman Greco wrestler, and he was Norwegian Champion 6 years on the bounce, from ’66, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, ’71, he was Norwegian Champion but that was before I was born, so I’ve only seen his paper clippings so I don’t remember my Dad wrestling, but that was always, every day when I was in the gym, my main motivation was ‘my Noah is going to watch me at Old Trafford, score a goal and remember seeing that day for the rest of his life’…

        RN: Oh that’s lovely… Wow.
        Ole: So that was my main like, that’s what my heart, that was the main thing to get back… And when I did, scored that goal at Charlton, that was unbelievable, I missed a chance very similar to the chance I scored just before and the relief when I scored that goal was massive and I came on and I got the Captain’s armband and celebrated in front of the away fans was unbelievable but then again when I score at home and Noah was there, 2-0 against Newcastle, I can still picture him, both hands fists celebrating, I know it is too much! That’s for me is probably the best moment I’ve had. After the injury.

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        RN: Is that your favourite goal then?
        Ole: You know the favourite moment, when I walk off the pitch after that 2-0 win against Newcastle and he just clenches his fists. (RN: I think I’m crying at this point!). But of course the 10 days in ’99 were massive. My best goal is probably the one I scored against Sturm Graz in the Champions League, with my left foot volley that went straight from the 18 yard box.

        RN: What was the low points then?
        Ole: Of course the injury towards the end. Losing Finals but probably the lowest and the most vivid memory is the 1-1 away to Bayer Leverkusen when we lost in the Semi Final of the Champions League. We drew 2-2 at home, we should have been 3-1 up, I think it was Seba Veron hit the post, hit the other post, out, counter attack instead of 3-1, they scored, it’s 2-2 at the other end. But I had a chance in maybe the 85th minute or something, a half volley from about 14/15 yards, just palmed that over the crossbar, that’s the most vivid memory I’ve got, of missing that chance.

        RN: Do you think that we should have won more than one European Cup in that spell?
        Ole: Definitely. With Eric when we lost the Semi Final in ’97 to Dortmund, as I felt we were the team to beat. Of course you played Juventus a couple of times, and had tight games against them that I thought we could go onto win it. That period after ’99 we thought we could go onto win a couple, Champions League is its margins. Post in, post out, that’s the difference.

        RN: Roy Keane said in his book that he was looking at the line up at Leverkusen and questioned the hunger, do you think that was it? Or unfortunate moments in games?
        Ole: Well you can say both but when you’re that close. 2-1, we’re winning at home, I’m sure it was Veron who had a shot and it hit both the posts or close to it anyway, that chance inside the post and they go out the other way and score a counter-attack, that’s not down to anything but luck, that’s football!

        RN: What was it like sharing a dressing room with Eric and Keane, two huge characters?
        Ole: Fantastic. Eric and Roy were two different persons obviously but Keano is the best Captain you could ever have in a team. For me. I’ve been asked so many times ‘pick one player that you played with’ and I can pick Cantona because he was the best player in my position when I came, I could have Ronaldo because he’s the best player now, Giggsy because of his qualities, Scholesy, he was probably the best player, Becks for his crossing, Jaap Stam, Rio, no-one when past him, Laurent Blanc, because he’s a legend, but for me if I pick one, I pick Roy Keane. Because all the influence he had on the squad and all the players around and everything he did. I’d pick Roy.

        RN: How often did he call you out? Was it only occasionally and these stories get exaggerated over time?
        Ole: He picked me out a few times but then again we’re mates now! Or we speak on the phone, and we text each other quite often. And when I’m in England we go for a cup of coffee. I understand that Roy did that because he can affect me in a positive way and he wanted me to do well for the team because the team needed me at my best. The players that never had a bollocking from Roy, you had no chance anyway!

        RN: The Newcastle game, you’ve got sent off, how scared of the bollocking were you from Fergie?
        Ole: To be honest I didn’t see it coming. Because it was the only right thing to do in my mind there and then. We lost the league by one point to Arsenal that year, it was in the 90th minute, 1-1. We could still get hold of that ball and score a goal towards the end in the other end so we needed to win the game. We would not win the game if 1) I gave a penalty away or 2) he scored. So to be honest I didn’t see a bollocking coming! Laughs. But I deserved it, yes, I can see that because it’s not fair play. Players patted me on the shoulder ‘well done, you did it for the team, you took one for the team’, but as the manager for the biggest club in the world it’s the only right thing to do is to give me a proper hairdryer. And he did! I was called into his office the next day. I had one more. One bad and more. After defeat to Sheffield Wednesday away at Hillsborough, so it was one of the two proper hairdryers I’ve had! You take it on board, there is absolutely no point trying to get back at him, just take it, you receive it and you accept it and you move on and you learn from it.

        RN: Was it more worrying when he wasn’t angry, keeping it hidden?
        Ole: To be fair I have to say I really enjoyed coming into half-time when he said ‘well done Ole!’ or when he mentioned me ‘look at the attitude’. I think he trusted me. What he does is he learnt how to manage everyone. So he knew, yeah, the bollocking once in a while did me good because I had to grow up but he praised me, he knew how to keep me on my toes and make me play at my best.

        RN: Obviously the Utd fans have such love for you, how does that feel? When you said about Reds still singing your name? Nobody has a bad word about you, you could murder cats and get away with it…
        Ole: It’s surreal. It is surreal and as I said it’s ten years ago that I retired, it seems like a past life but when I remember back on it and I wish, you can’t wish because I’ve picked it myself, I’ve moved back to Norway, settled, we really enjoy it but I wish I could have been to Old Trafford more often to watch the games and see the atmosphere because it’s the best feeling you can have.

        RN: We’ll have to get you in the away end Ole because a good away day is the best…
        Ole: Don’t I remember! Yes, I will!

        RN: So what are your ambitions left now?
        Ole: Of course I’ve been in the Premier League, got relegated, I would like to set that record straight one day but I can see now that because I was up and young and not so experienced, it’s 3 years ago now I took that job, I was 40, I think I’ll be better suited in say 3 or 4 years to get back in the big time.

        RN: If not for a goal, what’s your favourite moment, where you thought at United ‘this is the business, this?’
        Ole: I never thought I’d made it because I was always striving to get into that first XI more often, I would want to be a regular. Probably not believing 100% that I could nail down a first team regular spot really, but I probably realised I could have such an affect on the team as a sub. But when the Gaffer, because Spurs and Man Utd agreed a fee for me in the summer of ’98, but that not happening was down to the Gaffer. He called me in and said ‘well the clubs are agreed, I don’t want you to leave. We’re going to sign Dwight Yorke but if you stay you’ll play enough games, you’ll be an important part of this team’. That was enough for me. But then he also said ‘don’t tell anyone I said this!’. After what happened in ’99 and I scored that goal I think it’s justified that everyone should know that the Gaffer convinced me to stay! It was down to him.

        RN: And how are your knees today, are they aright?
        Ole: No, not really, no. No, to be fair. I live a normal life. Without being able to play football. The cold doesn’t really help. I can jog round the pitch and I can have a little kickabout but I can’t play proper football.

        RN: One last question, on the 30th anniversary of the fanzine, through all the good and bad of Utd, if you’ve one message to Utd fans, what would it be right now?
        Ole: We’ll get back to Number One. Just keep supporting the players and the club. And I’m sure we’ll turn it round. What’s been amazing, for me I’ve only experienced Man Utd supporters, they’ve always been positive. When I speak to players, my ex-team-mates that have played in Spain, or in Italy, the backing the Man Utd supporters give their own team is second to none. You see now, Real Madrid, if they lose a game or two games, Zidane’s got to go out to a press conference and maybe have a little comment about well the supporters should keep supporting the team and maybe the manager, that’s never happened at Man Utd. Never happens. Through good times and the bad.

        RN: Thanks so much Ole.
        Ole: Pleasure. Absolute pleasure.

        Interview by Barney, thanks to Per at Molde for sorting so very quickly when they heard it was for our 30th. No fuss, and Ole a gent, as you’d imagine!

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        • #64
          May 26th 1999. Twenty years on. By the RedNews Editor

          It all comes down to emotion.

          There will be others who more forensically analyse the Treble win - and there is no better place to start than the excellent - but I want to trade in what we are all here for, what we were all in Barcelona for; the hope, feeling and emotion of it all.

          That isn't to say even now I can either explain or fathom it.

          We could sit here all day, all of us lucky enough to be there, bear witness to it and try to figure it out. We might share another hug, a smile, a shrug, but explain it, no.

          It was just meant to be, surely?

          Now anyone who has been lucky enough to have had a kid then or now would be morally challenged to say that events of the 26th May 1999 were the greatest of their lives, so can I allow myself a simple tributary; it was the greatest night of my life.

          I knew then and I know now. I will never have another like it.

          I knew it then as I left, as I write now. Nothing United wise would come close, or has. It was a high you'd always want to chase but come up short. I've loved Moscow, and completing the set via Japan or Stockholm, but those lucky Reds in their 30/40/50s, saw it all. Lived it all. We can demand, but we got our fill.

          We're lucky. Most other football fans chase any high, and we had the ultimate. Football rivalry of course is such so you try and compare the feats before or those that come next, and I'll admit a jealous pang to that Aguero goal in 2012 and Arsenal at Anfield in the 1980s because even with all we did, we never quite won a title that way, but, and there is always a but, no elite triumph will ever or has even been achieved like this night.

          Not in 3 minutes.

          30 maybe. But 3?

          It's unique.

          Shove any other success up your arse if they try and compare it.

          Only Fergie could have managed such a feat.

          For the hours, days and weeks after, I'd create a fear, did that really happen?

          And not just the Treble itself, but the magnitude of that final victory.

          I'd worry it could be undone.


          What was it like?

          I, still, can't really sum it up.

          I could try, and we all have, but you could list 40 superlatives and still shrug your shoulders knowing none of them do it justice. It is the stuff of legend and make believe.

          How did we do it?

          We just did.

          In a way, the finale of those moments is actually entirely plausible after all that team had gone through and overcome that season, but listen to the commentary, ITV or BBC radio, watch the highlights (and let's be honest, you never watch anything but those last moments, the game itself was pretty rubbish), and you are listening to an event that transcends normality.

          I still get either or both of goosebumps or a smile seeing it unfold. For years after like an addict I just wanted a sniff of that we'd experienced. One more time.

          I've watched the goal 1000 times and still can never tire. How could you?

          We all have our stories around the game. Ours was a trip via Magaluf. Of a mate who was sick in a hotel sink the night before the finals in Rotterdam and Barcelona and rather than being appalled seeing it as an omen (not nerves I hasten to add, just the evils of shots).

          But everything was and is about the game. All that mattered for these games is the Final itself.

          The equaliser was immense. It was a delirium of fuck you, Utd are back in this, come on. Hugs, grabs, fall a row or two, grab onto the person next to you. Hold your head, we're right back in this. Even though I'd said moments before the way this season has gone, come on, I didn't think we really would... but now, come on extra time we can do this...

          the winner itself... now that was primal. I bet now those there can picture it. But explain it? It's out of body. It's almost beyond ecstasy as well as explanation. Who knows what today's era would have treated it via, a film it, youtube it culture, but this was one end exploding, together. It was the biggest Utd travelling support celebrating as one fucking mass.

          We did it all together.

          The joy is even now we can't describe it. That was the point.

          How can you fucking explain that.

          It was such a life affirming high I've been chasing it ever since.

          It was bouncing. It was flares to the side and below.

          It was, just was.

          Everything you start a football journey for. This is it. This was it. Football heaven.

          There is only one blot for me. We thought it might be the start of something. But I realise now, for my lot at least, it was the endings of something.

          Some gave up, saying they'd seen it all. So many of my group no longer go as they once did or worse still are no longer with us. Of those closest to me; Rob and Mum, I'd give so much to rejoice in what we'd gone through all our Utd lives to share such an experience just one second more. But they are gone. That makes sadness seeing the pictures of that day now.

          But sharing something so special mattered. I got to experience that with them, that night. We knew it.

          Thank you.

          I'm not a religious person but in my eulogy to Mum at her funeral I described her own heaven; listening to jazz, cats around her, glass of wine.

          I'll add to that. I hope she, Rob, so many other Reds like Jimmy, Coco, all the others there in 1999 no longer with us have some fucking big party today buzzing their tits off. Top of the fucking world.

          We all got that together that night.

          That night itself we ended up in Velvet Bar in Barcelona not wanting the night to end.

          That's how I'd be for the days and weeks after. I never wanted it to end. Same, really. Such was the mark it left.

          Not just a moment but the moment in our footballing lives.

          Fergie couldn't have said 'Life, bloody hell', but he may as well have done. 'Football, bloody hell' was good enough though. It is the greatest escapism and when it is great it feels like life itself. I often quote Carlo Ancelotti: "Football is the most important thing amongst the least important things in life. And that’s the way it should be."

          It's the way it is Carlo. We don't do it for the glory, but if you're lucky enough to do it whatever happens, then sometimes the glory can land in your lap/

          1999 wasn't why we do all we do as Utd fans. But it was the pay off, the reward, for all this madness.

          And it was done in such a mad, perverse, only way that Utd could under Alex Ferguson that it'll never be matched or beaten, like that side itself.

          It was the night we reached the Promised Land.
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          • #65
            Amazing post. Goosebumps every time I even think about that night.
            You sum it up so well. Thanks for the link to the Rob Smyth article - it's brilliant.
            I ended up driving from Toulouse and crashed on the floor of a hotel in Calella with Barry the Crazy Dane, Steve Fish (from CP Cheah's very early internet email list for ex-pats to get United news - I'm talking slow dial up - AOL and Yahoo - Goggle wasn't born for another 6 years) and a couple of other guys, who like me had flown in from California. We'd all grown up in Manchester and been Reds for about 30 years. We had the club seared into our hearts during relegation years of early 70s. Barcelona was our fantasy. No matter what life ever throws at me - I'll always have that night and it will always bring a massive grin to my face when I need it to.
            26 May 1999 - night of a thousand orgasms.