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Friday, August 18, 2006

Red News interview with Ole

copyright Red News

RN: So how are you feeling? How did it feel returning to the side?
OGS: I’m very happy. It’s going just as I wanted it to. Obviously I wasn’t happy with the hamstring injury I had, so I was out for three weeks, so that was bad timing really. But these things happen.
RN: After being injured for such a long time is it more frustrating than anything else?
OGS: Yeah in the situation I am in it’s a bit frustrating getting niggles for say three weeks. Three weeks is nothing but three weeks now is just bad timing because I just want to show that I am over the knee injury. You expect all theses niggles. Or when other people have them you say: ‘well you expect it’, but when it’s your own you think fu…(decides not to finish that word) ‘I could have done without this’. I’m over that now. Maybe I was a little bit too eager to train extra, so that’s why I did my hamstring in training.
RN: You said when you first came back that you won't know how the knee will react until the end of the season, is that still the case?
OGS: Yeah. The knee feels good but I think I need until the summer to get my match fitness and prove to myself that I can still play at the right level. I’m just trying to get as many games as possible in for the reserves and as many minutes in the first team that I can have. 4
RN: The determination to come back...the rehabilitation that you went through...where did that inner strength/inspiration come from?
OGS: It doesn’t really get me down. Once in a while you have a couple of bad days. You think: ‘Am I finished? Can I ever play again?’ I maybe had that a couple of times. I’ve always been quite good at setting short term targets. Next target is to start walking again, next one is to start jogging, next is to start running a bit quicker. I’m quite a patient guy really so it was never a case of just quitting or saying: ‘Well that’s it, I don’t want to do this anymore’, because that’s how my life is going to be when I’ve finished playing football. I’m still going to train and keep fit so why not do it when you can still play? The money is not the object. When you are in a team like this, when you have been a part of this, you just want to be a part of it again because it’s a fantastic place to be.
RN: Was it true in the early phases that you spent hours on end in the swimming pool and then cycling?
OGS: It’s quite hard and not hard at the same time. When I was in the pool I could see lads coming in to training and I’d been in there for twenty minutes already in the pool swimming, and they come in walking in, ready for training in forty minutes or whatever and then when you do your weights you can see them leaving and they have finished for the days work. It’s all part of the rehab. It’s all part of the mental build up as well. That’s why I know that I have done everything I could to get to where I am now. I didn’t ask to go home at 12 or whatever. I just knew I had to do it. You need a foundation first so then you focus more and more towards the football. The physios and the medical staff here have all been great with me, saying ‘you have to do this’, there was no panic. A couple of days it (the knee) was sore and they said it’s to be expected. They’ve been really good with me.
RN: Which of the United staff were you in contact with the most, who gave the most support?
OGS: It was the physio Rob Swire. He was there with me, he always travelled over to Sweden to see the surgeon. He went to see the operations, so I think I must have got on his nerves in the end! If there ever was a slight doubt I asked him. He’s been really good, but all the physios have, obviously he (Rob) needs days off as well. The physios have been really good and there have been players as well. Quinton’s had a period injured, Roy was injured for a while. Wes. I was there in the gym with different sets of players. Whenever they were injured I trained with them. I was just the regular and the rest were just in and out!
RN: What kept you going, was there anything you looked forward to again apart from just playing... being captain in the FA Cup game against Burton must have been a great lift?
OGS: Yeah of course it was great. If you had said that to me half way through my rehab…that I would be captain at Old Trafford in front of fifty odd thousand in the 3rd round of the FA Cup - I would have been delighted. Even if it was Burton Albion it was still a proud moment for me. When you are captain of Man United what more can you ask for really, and we won 5-0. That was one of the things that I’ve always had as a dream or a realistic target as well really, because I always felt that I could get back to playing at Old Trafford. But I’ve not been there in a major important game which is the ultimate target, to be playing again, so just wait and see. It kept me going.
It sounds like a cliché but all the songs... every game I hear my song and it’s been absolutely fantastic. Away games for example...I’ve been watching and we can hear it in the background. I say: ‘Sshhh, Sshhh, listen, listen, it’s my song!’ (Smiles) ‘It’s my song’. It warms your heart and it’s great for my son, Noah. ‘Dad they are singing your song, but you’re not playing’. He’s been really buying into this as well.
RN: Well you’ve answered our next question there!
OGS: It feels fantastic, and humbling and a bit frightening...
RN: Because of the expectation?
OGS: Yeah, but I know the expectation won’t be for me to score five goals or three goals in the first game or whatever because I think you (the fans) know that it will take time. Just the fact that you keep supporting me is just heart warming. It’s just great.
RN: You're labelled a legend by United fans, for many, many reasons, from our perspective ‘up there’ it's you and Eric Cantona on such a pedestal from recent times, how does that feel?
OGS: It doesn’t sound real for me. For me they are the legends, Keano and Cantona. Schmeichel and Robbo. When I still see them your heart skips a beat, you know? Just to be mentioned alongside these names is just amazing. I’m a lad from Kristiansand who lived with his Mum and Dad until he was 22 and played for his local team until he was 22 and then suddenly to be part of the history of Man United and be mentioned with these legends, it’s great!
RN: Do you realise that United fans will be singing your name for decades to come...?
OGS: Obviously because of that goal.
RN: It’s a lot more than that.
OGS: Yeah, there might be more but that goal obviously is a great, great moment for the club so I understand that part of it.
RN: Now you’ve brought it up, there was no way we couldn’t talk about it! What went through your mind in that split second from the ball coming over, to the back of the net?
OGS: Ahh… It’s almost impossible to answer because...just instinct I think. I can remember thinking ‘this can be it’ or something. I just err... RN: ...Stuck your leg out!
OGS: (laughs) Yeah, the ball was just there. I felt great the whole night. I don’t think we had a shot on target before I came on actually. You know when your legs are springy and you feel you can do whatever, instead of sometimes when you feel your legs are heavy. That night my legs were light, I could try things. I remember I got a header near post and Khan saved it. I felt like ‘there is still space here, 4 they seem tired’. I said to quite a few people that something big was going to happen to me that night. I cannot remember how I felt but after I scored, I remember Bassler slid on his knees when they scored their goal so I just had to slide on my knees as well.
RN: When was the last time you watched the tape of the game or even just the last few minutes?
OGS: I’ve not seen the last fifteen minutes for maybe...I’ve not seen the full game yet. I haven’t. The last ten minutes I’ve seen once at my Dads in the summer after we won it, but I’ve seen the goal quite a few times.
I’ve asked MUTV for a DVD of all my goals, just to try and get into seeing myself scoring goals again. You need to visualise yourself scoring goals before you can do it I think and hopefully I’ve done that enough now so I can go out at Old Trafford and score again soon.
RN: Is it true that you injured your knee with the celebration for the goal that night?
OGS: Yeah. I missed two games for Norway that summer because my medial ligaments got injured. I didn’t really mind!
RN: You were a Liverpool fan when you were growing up, would you class yourself as a United fan now?!
OGS: Of course I am. You know when you are back home and you watch games on TV and you tend to support the team that’s winning, so in the 80’s Liverpool were winning. Kenny Dalglish was my…he was the best player I thought, then Van Basten and Zico, but in England, Liverpool won so you get caught up in the moment.
But now! Actually in Norway I used to support a team that was the worst enemy for the team I signed for in Norway. It’s just the story of my career. I signed for United and obviously you become a United supporter. I feel that I am a part of the history of the club and you get to learn about the club when you are here for such a long time.
RN: Learn what it means to be ‘United’.
OGS: Oh yeah. You walk around and you shake hands with Bobby Charlton. You meet Denis Law. I met George Best a few times. I went to his funeral.
RN: How did it feel to be the players’ representative at Georgie’s funeral?
OGS: It was a great honour to be there. I felt the players should be represented and we played a game that day against…who did we play against? RN: Portsmouth...
OGS: Yeah, because Milan Manderic was on the plane. Strange feelings being there, it was such a tense atmosphere. Even if I just met him three or four times I felt really, really sad. Really, really sad.
RN: Similar feelings that most Reds experienced, although they never met him they felt he had impacted upon their lives.
OGS: I never saw him play football. I’ve seen a few clips. It was just being there and representing the players…that’s something that I’ll always remember. Always remember.
RN: Do you get much mither out and about with Reds wanting to kiss your feet, throw themselves at you sort of thing...that's the gratitude felt...!
OGS: No, just thumbs up, ‘all the best and we need you back’. Obviously I answer: ‘I don’t know if you do, have you seen the shape of me!’. Never any problems, always positive things.
RN: When your comeback was that close, the night before your first game, what emotions did you go through?
OGS: It’s one of them as well, I know I didn’t really set any standards or pressure on myself to perform. I was just going to go out there and enjoy it. I knew I hadn’t played for two years so it wasn’t going to be a good game. Obviously you think it can be if the team plays well and you get chances, ‘I can score four or five goals’, but it can also happen that you miss-control every ball so it can be either, or. And it was more or, to be fair! It was a bad game, it was the first time the reserves hadn’t scored in a game and that’s the game I played up front!
I really, really enjoyed it and coming there with all the crowd there was amazing. Jim Ryan - the assistant manager before - he always comes to the reserve games. He was 15 minutes late because he was stuck in traffic. There is never that much traffic round there. There were about 3,000 there. It was a bit disappointing not scoring a goal in your comeback game because you still have hope. ‘I’ll show them what they’ve been singing for and blah, blah, blah’. It just didn’t happen, but it will happen. I will score again.
RN: It's hard to imagine that you're approaching your testimonial season at the club - does it feel that length of time to you?
OGS: No it doesn’t. Ten years! In the 4 summer I’ve been here ten years, this is my tenth season. And its just flown by. Yesterday I watched - before the game - the Premiership Years and it was the 97/98 season and every time I saw a clip from one of our games I knew exactly what had happened. You remember everything and its just gone (clicks his fingers) like this, it’s flown by.
RN: What memories stand out from your time here excluding Barca?
OGS: I can’t have that one?! Obviously my debut, scoring a goal. Winning the league for the first time. There are so many. We lost 5-0 to Newcastle and 6-3 to Southampton.
RN: When we got beat 5-0 was that when Philipe Albert scored?
OGS: Yeah, he chipped Peter. I remember the day after we had a meeting at the Cliff. Just conceded eleven goals in two games and we won the league by seven points. That’s one of the things, with the gaffer there is never a panic button on. He has been through everything before, so settled us down, ‘don’t panic, we have lost two games but it’s just six points’. Obviously when we beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup in the ‘99 season as well.
RN: I remember that!
OGS: I think most of us do! There are so many things…I could tell you about maybe all of my goals, everything! There are so many things. Playing with Eric. Fantastic. Playing 9 seasons with Roy. Fantastic. Becks was fantastic, then the best keeper in the world, Schmeichel. So I’ve got to learn a few things and got to experience a few things.
RN: And now its your turn to pass all that on? OGS: Laughs knowingly.
RN: Can you believe it's now nearly 7 years ago? Do you think since the Treble season we've found it harder in Europe?
OGS: We have always believed we can do it ever since as well. We have believed every season that this is our year. We need to win it again. You look at the times we have gone out. We went out to Bayer Leverkusen in the Semi Final. We were winning 2-1 at home and Seba has a shot inside the post and it goes out. Counter attack and it’s 2-2 within ten seconds, so that could have won us that game. The Real Madrid game where we won 4-3 at home, that was a fantastic game and we went out. We went out to Borussia, no, that was before. We went out to Porto when Scholsey is two yards onside when he scores and they go on to win it. There are so many…
Like last year we had AC Milan and I felt we could win. It was two close games and I thought then they would go on and win it. Obviously we all crossed our fingers and hoped they would win it, but they didn’t. We have been very, very close. In the year we won it we played well but we were 2-0 down to Juventus, and we came back. Against Inter we had Henning save off the line. There are defining moments which go one way or the other. It’s not about the team’s got worse or the other teams have got so much better - any out of eight teams can win the Champions League.
RN: You were linked a few weeks ago with returning to Molde, what is the situation with next season, are United going to offer a new contract?
OGS: (Laughs at my pronunciation of Molde apparently its not said like the stuff you find on cheese.) The thing there is, I know all of them at Molde. Actually at the moment a player I played with for about ten years, he’s the coach. The Sporting Director I played with at Molde for several years, plus I played with him for the Under-21s so they know my situation, they know I want to play here for as long as I can.
It was just I was home because my little one had his tonsils out and that’s the nearest hospital we could do it. So some people spotted me and obviously the next couple of days there is story in the papers that I’m going there. It’s just one of those things, people see me there and headlines are coming up. But I’ve not heard anything from the club, I’m just hoping to prove myself over the next three months that I’m worthy of another pay as you play contract or whatever.
RN: Can you remember signing for United, how did it come about?
OGS: I remember everything, yeah. They were going to watch Ronnie Johnson playing for Norway and in that game I scored two goals and Jim Ryan called the gaffer that night and said we haven’t got anything to lose. ‘He is not going to be expensive, he scored two great goals, let’s just take a chance, put him in the reserves for a year and see how he develops’. When they called me, obviously you can’t say no. Coming here I had to wait because the clubs were discussing the fee.
We went by private plane with the owners of Molde, we came over here and they were speaking to Martin Edwards and while that was happening I just went to see one of the tour guides at the museum. He took me on the trip and said “So you’re a supporter then? You like United?” and all this and I said: “Actually I’m going to sign for them today”. He gave me his pen, so I signed the contract with his pen. I can’t remember his name but I’ve met him a couple of times so he enjoyed that. I had lunch with the gaffer, fish and chips or something and that was it. They sent me away for two weeks to have a holiday and then come back and start training.
RN: Not many players get a standing ovation for a sending off like you did against Newcastle, how did that feel and do you think that sacrifice for the good of the team was the beginning of the legend that fans see you as?
OGS: Next morning I didn’t think I was going to stay at the club for so long! I was in the Gaffers office and he was really slaughtering me for doing that because it’s very unsporting and I can understand that. In that season we lost the league by one point that year and all I was thinking was ‘stop him before he gets inside the box’. Then, we could still win it. I still felt we could win this game on the counter attack. ‘If we are ever going to win the league this year I have to stop him’. I can understand the supporters’ point of view, but as a role model, as young players in Norway look up to me, it’s not the right thing to do. That’s what I have to say anyway! (cheesy smile).
RN: Could you see yourself as a manager one day? Have you had any thoughts for when you hang up your boots?
OGS: Yeah I’ve done loads of coaching. Well, not loads! I’ve done coaching every summer for the last three years in Norway for young kids, twenty five boys and twenty five girls which the FA have picked out. That’s good, I like coaching. I’ve done coaching with the youth team here, with the reserves with Rene and I hope to be doing coaching and managing later on. At what level I don’t know, I’ll see how much I enjoy it and how good I am at it, it’s such a different thing from playing. I feel I’m good, I know a bit about how players think. So I think maybe. I’m looking forward to trying it in a few years time hopefully. There is still a few years left in these legs!
RN: You've seen many players come and go, so that now you are one of the senior pros at the club, what do you think your responsibilities are to your team-mates?
OGS: Passing on the experience on the way United play football, the way we behave. Maybe the behaviour aspect is the most important thing because as a young player you don’t always know what’s best for you and you don’t always listen to older players either. If you lead by example, if you go in the gym early and show them how you should behave - by example.
RN: Kids don’t need a lecture do they (most of the time)?
OGS: No they don’t. I enjoy playing in the reserves at the moment because sometimes it’s good for them to get to see first hand or be told first hand how its not about having to dribble past three men, the simple thing is sometimes the most effective thing. So it’s very enjoyable.
RN: They obviously appear to be listening - the reserves are playing some good football.
OGS: The reserves are playing some fantastic football, there are some good prospects, the youngsters there... RN: Rossi again last night scoring his fourth hat trick of the season... OGS: He is a goal machine.
RN: There have been comparisons with Rossi's natural goal scoring instinct and yours and Scholsey’s...
OGS: He is a great, great finisher because he thinks about scoring goals before he gets the ball. The way he moves - he always thinks: ‘If I get the ball, how am I going to score’. He is very, very good.
RN: Do you still keep in touch with former players you've played with?
OGS: Yeah a couple of them, obviously I speak to Henning and Ronnie, sometimes Jordi, Jaap sometimes. I speak to some of them, Peter Schmeichel a few times. I’ve met Eric a few times, Becks, Nicky, Phil - so yeah the list goes on. Yeah you speak to them.
RN: What have you learnt from Sir Alex Ferguson?
OGS: I have learnt a lot so I would do him an injustice by just saying a few things, but the way he has man-handled and man-managed twenty five internationals, keeping everyone fit and happy. There are not many players that have wanted to leave here. You hear about teams coming in for players but no one wants to move.
RN: Tottenham for you a few years ago for example....
OGS: Yeah, that’s just one example for me. There were loads of teams coming in for Diego but he still wanted to be here trying to be a part of this team. The hunger the manager shows - it is always the next game that is the most important one.
(Gary Nev walks past and shouts ‘is there?!’. OGS: ‘He is an effing nugget!’ Gary shouts: “It’s always the next game that’s the most important Ole!”, with everyone laughing)
OGS: If we win the Champions League...maybe that was a different scenario, when we won the Champions League maybe he let his hair down a bit as well. But whenever you win a big game, or whatever, it’s finished with that one. Won the league, finished, it’s the next league. When we won the league early on in April 2000 there was no talk about relaxing. It was ‘this is the start of next season, let’s prepare for next season’. You can never rest on your laurels, that’s one of the things I’ve learnt from him. There are so many things that I am going to bring with me as a manager or a coach from him.
RN: Who has been the biggest influence from all the players you have played with at United?
OGS: It’s different for different parts of my career but obviously Eric Cantona. In my first season he was fantastic, I learnt a lot from him. I benefited from him maybe more as a player than from anyone else. Roy has been the most influential one, he is the one I listen the most to. He has had the wisest words to tell. The things you see on the pitch is only half, not even half of what Roy is all about.
RN: The same drive and determination to win as Fergie?
OGS: Yeah. He was always setting standards high. Asking 100% from himself and from us…
RN: How has the general atmosphere in the dressing room changed much since you joined the club?
OGS: I think we all change, now suddenly me, Giggsy, Gary - we’re the older ones. When I came we were the younger ones sitting listening to Pally, Choccy, Schmeichel, Cantona. Now maybe the youngsters try to look to us for how to behave, like we spoke about earlier. Behaviour and a few things. Now suddenly we are Peter Schmeichel and Denis Irwin. That is the natural progress of a football team, you get older people coming and going and suddenly if you stay you’re the wise man.
RN: It's been a strange season, out of Europe, Chelsea so far ahead, but doing well in the Cup, how do you view it?
OGS: The Champions League was a major, major disappointment. In the League I think if you look at the points tally and the way we have played I think you cannot criticise the team, because they have played really well. Chelsea have done fantastically well, they have raised the bar so much. In a normal season, say of my ten seasons here the points tally now would have been enough in six or seven of them at least to be top of the league.4
RN: Or at least a couple of points behind... OGS: Yeah, at the most. But the challenge has been laid down by Chelsea and it’s up to us to respond to it.
RN: Do you think we will respond?
OGS: Yeah. United is always up for a challenge. You can’t try to copy teams, you have to try and do it your own way and that’s what the Gaffer is doing, he’s doing it his own way. We are closer this year than we were last. We are better this year than we were last and it’s only going to go one way. Up again!
RN: Fergie has talked about maybe having played you wide right earlier than he did in your career, how did you feel about playing out there when you did and do you think it could have been your long term position?
OGS: I used to play wide left, wide right for Norway so I wasn’t new to the position when the gaffer put me there. When you are on the sides you face the play more, you can face the goal more. It’s easier, in one way it’s easier to be more effective. Sometimes when you’re a striker you’ve got a man up your arse and you don’t see what’s happening around you. You get a bit more space and time on the sides. I really enjoyed the year before I got injured, but since then I’ve been injured. I’ve done what I can to get fit again, the next three months will decide if I can be here next year.
RN: You’re quite happy to play anywhere?
OGS: Oh yeah, I played left wing for the reserves yesterday, I played up front. I played in centre midfield so wherever he puts me…I don’t think I am a player who you can say ‘that’s his position’, I think I’m more of a general football player, obviously I used to be good at finishing, hopefully I will be again!
RN: So much at United has changed since you arrived, and two new tiers in the ground are about to go up, what do you make of it all?
OGS: The club has progressed so much since I have come, the attention, the media attention, the size of the club. This place (Carrington). Everything is moving forward, the demand for seats at the games is still as big as it’s ever been and now when it’s going to be 75,000 it’s going to be the best stadium in the world (dramatic pause) - Old Trafford.
RN: You've also paid attention to supporters' groups and organisations and their campaigns, do you think it's important to have a close relationship to how the fans are feeling?
OGS: Yeah. I’ve always been a football supporter I have always been interested in football. To have a feeling for a club you need to feel close to it as well and for the players to feel close to the fans is very important as well. The little things that we try to do, when you lose a game you still go and clap the fans and the fans clap you, it means so much. Supporters are…what can you do without them, no club would be living without the supporters and those who look after the supporters and play the best football are the best supported teams.
RN: How do you relax away from Old Trafford?
OGS: I don’t know if you want to call it relaxing but I’ve got two kids. I’ve got a girl that’s three and a boy that’s five and a half. That’s not much relaxing but when they go to bed I love my video, I love my DVD or some music.
RN: What’s on your CD player at the moment?
OGS: A couple of Norwegian groups that you have probably not heard of. Arctic Monkeys, I like the Stone Roses, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Guns & Roses, Bob Dylan. I went to see Bob Dylan last November. I’m a bit more of the old style. Nothing wrong with that! That’s my style of music, I don’t think I will get into many of the new groups, but I like Arctic Monkeys the little I’ve heard of it.
RN: You've achieved so much, what ambitions do you still have left?
OGS: I know I have won a few things but still - if I don’t win anything more I will be disappointed. Then I will go home and I will feel that since my injury I have been a failure. That’s what I’ll feel. You always remember what happened last year and I don’t like living on past history, past glories. For me if I don’t win anything more I will be very, very disappointed. So that means that I’ve got to stay at this club to not be very disappointed!
RN: Would you make any changes to your career if you were to do it all again?
OGS: If you know what you know today 15 years ago, how much easier would it be? But that’s just the natural progress of a football career. I would have changed the last ten minutes of the Wolverhampton game 2 years ago. Because that was the game where I got injured. I was tired. I should have asked the Gaffer to come off. That’s what I would change. That’s the only thing that I would have changed.
RN: If you hadn't have been a footballer what would your chosen career have been?
OGS: Football coach (laughs)! If I wasn’t interested in football then I probably would have done something with numbers, because I’ve always been good at maths, so an accountant of a firm or something. I was always good at pluses, minuses and percentages!
RN: Is it true that when you were out injured you sat in the Stretford End with your family? OGS: No, not in the Stretford End, just in the family stand next to the tunnel. RN: Players usually sit in the Exec box... OGS: Whenever the weather was good and my family was there I would like to sit with them there because my little ‘un is very into football so I try and explain it to him RN: He’s got plenty of years to learn the rules!
OGS: He knows the league table upside down, inside out. I was the same apparently when I was young. Always been football mad.