How super-sub Solskjaer became a Man Utd legend
Published 00:00 19/05/08 By By Oliver Holt Chief Sports Writer
The ghost of glories past sat at the Manchester United training ground last week, as radiant and happy a ghost as you've ever seen.
Sometimes pointing at his big toe to answer the question about exactly which part of his right foot had stabbed the winner into the back of the Bayern Munich net back in 1999.
Sometimes talking about how men come up and thank him for giving them the best night of their life.
"Better than my wedding night but don't tell my wife," they say. Sometimes marvelling at the premonition he had that even though he started the Champions League Final in Barcelona on the bench, he was going to shape the game.
But always, always remaining a symbol of the life-changing enormity of the prize that lies out there for United's players in Moscow on Wednesday.
The chance to become a legend. The chance to join Best and Charlton, Beckham and Neville, in United history. The shot at football immortality. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer achieved all that when he diverted Teddy Sheringham's header past Oliver Kahn in the dying seconds of that impossibly dramatic final in the Nou Camp.
Now he's on the coaching staff at the club where he became a byword for uncomplaining loyalty and unremitting professional excellence.
Solskjaer remains as unassuming and thoughtful as he has ever been but his presence at the club is an inspiration for the players who will face Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Because he showed that a bitpart player can hold the key. Because he was determined to seize the day.
He showed that everyone matters. That you don't have to be a superstar part of the starting 11 to become a hero forever. "I was very focused on never sulking about not playing," Solskjaer said. "There were a couple of times in friendly games that I didn't do my warm up properly and I was lethargic during the match.
"After that, I made a pact with myself that whenever you play, you play 100 per cent or there's no point in being here and I wanted to be here.
"My best ability was just being ready when I was called upon. Just being focused on making sure that I could do myself proud and do whatever I could.
"I always looked forward to the moment I was coming on and I'm fit and my legs are light. It's carpe diem, isn't it. Seize the day.
"If you sulk and are on the bench and the gaffer calls you on, you are not ready because there's something going on in your head.
"Giggsy showed it last week when he came on at Wigan and scored the goal that won the league.
"You can still make a big, big impact at this club even if you're not a first-team regular. I think maybe that's the lesson some of them have learned from what happened to me."
Solskjaer had unshakable belief in himself, too, belief that extended to having a premonition he would have a decisive impact on the final.
Several hours before the game, his roommate, Jaap Stam, was snoring so loudly in the next bed that Solskjaer gave up on sleep, went downstairs and phoned his best friend in Norway, a nurse in a hospital in Trondheim.
He told his friend he had to watch the whole match. Not just the first half. "Something big is going to happen," Solskjaer told him.
His friend said there was a problem. He was working the night shift and he had to leave for work before the end of the game. Solskjaer told him he had to get someone to cover for him. "You need to watch the whole game," he told him again. "Right until the end." His friend sorted it out. He watched the whole game.
Solskjaer spent much of the match against Bayern trying to catch the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, silently pleading with him to bring him off the bench.
He loitered at half-time when he heard Ferguson telling Sheringham that he was going to bring him on midway through the second half.
He hoped the manager would have a chat with him, too, but it didn't happen. The second half wore on and Solskjaer watched and waited.
He finally got his chance in the 81st minute when he came on for Andy Cole. Ten minutes later, Sheringham equalised. A minute after that, Solskjaer got the winner.
"When Teddy scored everyone ran over to him to celebrate except me," Solskjaer said. "I ran straight back to the half-way line because I was concentrating on playing half an hour of extra time in a Champions League Final.
"I thought 'this is going to be something I'm going to savour, remember and learn from'. But I ruined that."
I was very focused on never sulking about not playing. My best ability was being ready when needed