Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reveals almost leaving Man Utd for Tottenham & details Liverpool interest

Manchester United almost sold Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 1998 in a move that would changed the course of football history.

Less than a year later, Solskjaer scored the winning goal in the Champions League final that saw United become the first, and until 2023 the only, English club to complete the treble.

But his transfer had been agreed between the chairmen of the respective clubs and it was only intervention from Alex Ferguson, yet to be knighted at that stage of his career, that saw the deal fall through.

“I have a signed fax between Alan Sugar and Martin Edwards, £5.5m, it was all agreed…summer of 1998,” Solskjaer explained on the latest episode of the Stick to Football podcast.

“I said no because the gaffer actually asked me to stay. He said, ‘You’re not going to be first choice, but you’ll play enough’. But he said to me, ‘Don’t tell anyone that I’ve said this to you’. They needed the money apparently. But having won the treble, I felt I can say that now.”

Solskjaer is most famous for that toe poke at Camp Nou that sealed United’s incredible 2-1 comeback win over Bayern Munich, but his impact throughout the 1998/99 season – and in the years that followed – could have been lost had things unfolded slightly differently.

The Norwegian had only been at United for two seasons by the summer of 1998. He enjoyed an outstanding debut year, scoring 18 Premier League goals to finish as the competition’s joint-third top scorer, but quickly slipped down the pecking order. Despite the 1997 retirement of Eric Cantona, Teddy Sheringham arrived and Andy Cole was back firing after recovering from two leg breaks.

United may have needed the financial boost from his sale due to twice breaking the British transfer record in 1998 to sign Jaap Stam for £10.75m and then Dwight Yorke for £12.6m.

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But Ferguson’s plea for Solskjaer to stay proved masterful. Notwithstanding the Champions League final, he scored the stoppage time winner against Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup and played a vital role in a much-needed April win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1999. His four goals off the bench against Nottingham, although inconsequential to the result, is among the all-time iconic Premier League moments. He also started both the FA Cup semi-final replay and the final itself.

Later on, the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ netted 25 times in all competitions during 2001/02 after forging a successful partnership with Ruud van Nistelrooy – having outlasted Sheringham, Cole and Yorke – while he made 57 appearances across the 2002/03 season alone.

Overall, Solskjaer scored 126 goals for United in an 11-year period, playing 366 games. Only 17 players in the club’s 146-year history have scored more – and just two (Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo) from overseas. It could even have been a much greater number but for a devastating knee injury that limited him to only 24 games across three seasons from 2003 until 2006 and basically prompted his retirement the year after at the age of 34.

Solskjaer also revealed in the podcast chat with former teammates Gary Neville and Roy Keane, as well as Ian Wright, Jamie Carragher and Jill Scott, that, having grown up in Norway following Liverpool, he was actually still a member of their supporters’ club when he joined United. There had even been interest from Liverpool prior to his move to Manchester.

“There was a time [that Liverpool were interested], not long before [joining United], but it never came in,” he explained. “It was PSV [Eindhoven], Cagliari and Bayern Munich before United, but I had to go to United.”


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