New Delhi: Manchester United's recent slips notwithstanding, club's former midfielder Quinton Fortune believes manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still best suited to guide the 20-time Premier League champions to greater heights. Solskjaer and Fortune were part of the United team for the entire duration of the latter's seven-year stint (1999-2006) at Old Trafford, and the South African believes that familiarity with club's culture and ethos make Solskjaer an ideal candidate for the long haul.
Solskjaer's arrival at Old Trafford marked a significant revival in club's fortunes, with the Norwegian guiding the Red Devils to an unbeaten ten-game run.
"Finally, we have someone who understands the culture of Manchester United," Fortune said on the sidelines of his visit to Shiv Nadar School in Gurguram as part of the Manchester United Soccer Schools.
"Ole knows what is required, the work ethics, the team spirit, and all the stuff he has been saying are on point. No team is supposed to outwork Manchester United... this was not even in our thoughts under Sir Alex Ferguson, and these are the values of the club," the South African said.
"As soon as Ole came, he changed the environment at the club," Fortune continued. "The energy changed all around, and the people started to believe again. Ole just reminded players that they are playing for Manchester United, and it is the most amazing blessing. You can see the results, the transition was unbelievable. I am relaxed because Manchester United have someone who understands their culture."
The 41-year-old also dwelled on his playing days with Solskjaer, recalling the moniker of 'baby-faced assassin' that was ascribed to the current United manager.
"Ole was an amazing teammate. He was a joy to play with because you knew if you give Ole the ball in the right place, he'll score, and it was not by fluke. Ole was like Ronaldo... practice practice, practice, every day after training. They called him the baby-faced assassin, because he was always so quiet, but give him the ball in the box, and he'd score.
"As a manager, he has the attention to detail in his management. He can be very tough and tells players what needs to be said. That's what people don't see from outside. He has got all the ingredients to make for a successful manager," Fortune said.
Recalling his playing career under Sir Alex Ferguson, Fortune said the Scotsman was "the best manager" he has played under.
"He was amazing in terms of his man-management skills. He knew all the players very well, so he knew what to say to whom. He used to speak to senior players in a certain way, and to younger players like Ronaldo, Rooney etc in a certain way.
"In the team talk, sometimes he wouldn't even speak about football. He would speak about our families, our parents and how grateful we should be about playing for Manchester United. He would talk about the sacrifices our families made, what it meant to play for Manchester United. He would make us feel so motivated," he said.
Fortune, who played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, also reflected on the gradual evolution of football from his playing days, and said modern facilities leave no room for excuses for players.
"The game has changed a lot from the physical side of things. The players are more protected and the football pitches now are immaculate throughout the year. When I was playing, the pitches at Old Trafford in December would get muddy. Players are quicker and stronger now, nutrition has got better, sports science has improved. Players can no longer make any excuses.
"Everything is geared around making players focus only on football. The money is crazy now; I wish I was playing now. You can play for just one season, or even one month, and say, 'thank you very much'," he quipped.
'India need to develop structure'
Asked on his views on Indian football, Fortune said that while raw talent is in abundance, the need of the hour is to develop a robust structure to harness the same.
"You guys are investing a lot of late, foreign players are coming in to play the leagues which raises the level of performance, foreign coaches are coming in, but you need a structure," he said.
"There has to be a good age-group and academy structure. If your love for cricket transfers to football, that will be a scary sight. It will happen, but it will take its time. Everyone should work together to get good Indian players and they should be sent to Europe, because that's where best players are. The talent is there, they just need te opportunity and exposure to go and play there," he concluded.
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Updated Date: Apr 28, 2019 14:12:01 IST