Manchester United will be looking for a fourth consecutive win when Everton travel to Old Trafford on Sunday, and though the visiting team have just lost a manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær knows better than most how effective an in-house replacement can be.
With Duncan Ferguson following Frank Lampard and Freddie Ljungberg in taking either temporary or permanent control of the club he knows best, it is even possible that United set a pioneering example when turning to Solskjær just under a year ago.
“I don’t know if I triggered something or not, but I do know that United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton are all big clubs with great traditions,” Solskjær said. “It’s easy to make a mistake so it can often make sense to go for someone who knows the club inside out. I can’t say what happens at the other clubs but here it is very important to stick to our traditions and values.”
Solskjær watched Ferguson’s Everton beat Chelsea last weekend and the United manager was impressed. “I’m sure they are going to come here with the same amount of belief and try to make it hard for us,” he said. “They had a big upturn with their new manager last week. Duncan Ferguson was 100% action and passion as a player and I’ve no doubt he’ll be the same as a manager, but we are going to stand up for ourselves. We need the three points because at the moment we are too far behind. We’ve got to keep our momentum going.”
United failed abjectly to stand up for themselves the last time they played Everton, when with nothing in particular at stake they were beaten 4-0 at Goodison Park towards the end of last season. Collectively United seemed to give up on the game far too early, and it was a performance that continues to haunt Solskjær.
“We lost quite clearly at Everton last season,” he admitted. “We’ve spoken enough about what happened that day and how we looked as a team. It was a shambles, more or less, but we are not that group any more. There is a different mentality now, this is a group that’s ready for the fight. We are going in the right direction now, and you don’t play here if you don’t want to join in.”
If Everton are as pumped up as they were against Chelsea last week United may need to be ready for a fight, but Ferguson will also be aware he is facing a side that has just accounted for José Mourinho’s Tottenham and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Solskjær, asked whether he had any advice for the Premier League’s latest caretaker manager, joked: “Yes, bring your second team to Old Trafford. Play your reserves!” before conceding that Ferguson should just carry on what he is already doing.
“He just needs to be himself – if you try to be someone else you are going to be found out in the end,” Solskjær added. “I’ve always tried to be myself and I’m sure Big Dunc is the same.”