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Solskjaer can be next Ferguson: Johnsen

Former United and Norway defender backs compatriot

Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News
Ronny Johnsen, former Manchester United defensive midfielder, with students at the launchof the Manchester United Soccer Schools Dubai season at Repton School on Tuesday.
Gulf News

Dubai Former Manchester United and Norway defender Ronny Johnsen said he can envisage his old teammate and compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking up the hot seat at Old Trafford when Sir Alex Ferguson retires.

Solskjaer, 39, led Norwegian side Molde to their first league championship last season in his first year in charge. They are now second in the current campaign, a point off Rosenborg with five games left to play and face Stuttgart on Thursday in the Europa League group phase.

Speaking on the sidelines of Manchester United Soccer School’s official launch at Dubai’s Repton School, on Tuesday, Johnsen said of Solskjaer: “I think he’s done really well as a coach so far.”

“He’s second in the league, having won it last year and he’s probably going to win it this year as well. He’s in Europe too, so if he gets experience and goes from there, we’ll see. Of course when you go to Molde and do this... [it speaks for itself],” said Johnsen, 43, who made 99 appearances for United between 1996 and 2002.

“He’s always been very precise in his football and I could always see him going down that route [into management].”

“It’s all about getting experience and then we’ll see how long Ferguson sits there. I hope he stays there many years to come, though, to be honest.”

Johnsen added of Ferguson, 70, who admitted last season he’d retire “in two or three years”: “The product that runs right the way through the club is all his {Ferguson’s]. He’s still got the passion for the game and he’s still the first one in the office and the last to leave.”

“It’s all about passion and he’s still got it — I still love to watch the boss work.”

Following on from United’s shock 3-2 loss at home to Tottenham last Saturday, compounded by an injury to centre-back Nemanja Vidic, at a time when questions are also being asked about Ferguson’s reliance on ageing players, Johnsen said: “It was a big blow. We’re a little vulnerable there so hopefully he’ll come back soon. If not we’ve got a lot of young players coming through. But it’s always going to be a little bit up and down when it comes to youngsters.”

“I think the mix is important. You need old and young in a club. It’s all about mixing it up properly and Ferguson is the best at this. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are still important players for the club,” said Johnsen.

“I think you’ll see a lot more youth getting a chance during the season now. The policy of the club is that youth get a chance, and when you get that opportunity you take it.”