This article originally appeared in Future Sport magazine. Click here to read the 2021 edition.

Manchester United’s search for the rightful heir to Sir Alex Ferguson’s throne has been a complicated one. From a tried and tested Premier League manager to legends of the game, they’ve now landed on a relative rookie, but one who lives and breathes the club. The fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t shy away from his close relationship with Sir Alex, and has referenced his desire to rediscover the winning mentality that was such a feature of his time as a player in Manchester, might just work in his favour. The Norwegian spoke to Future Sport about learning from the best and how he takes that into the club with him every day…

It’s been nearly eight years since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as Manchester United manager, yet still the great Scot’s presence hangs over Old Trafford like the ever-present clouds in the North West.

David Moyes didn’t get a full season in the job to demonstrate what he could do, and despite winning the FA Cup, Louis Van Gaal’s tenure was ended. Jose Mourinho's Europa League title, League Cup and second place Premier League finish remains United’s best return since Fergie retired.

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Then came Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A club legend and Sir Alex devotee, the initial temporary appointment became permanent following an improbable Champions League win in Paris.

In an exclusive interview with Future Sport, the Norwegian explained that he feels the club is close to being the one he experienced as a player after it had "lost its way".

“I felt coming into the club there had been a lot of changes since Sir Alex left and what my memories were of that successful, winning team,” Solskjaer says. “I’m getting the feeling that we are getting back to the right values – I think maybe we had lost our way as a football club.”

Describing the winning culture and ethos of the club during his time as a player, Solskjaer explained that is was driven by the powerful first-team dressing room.

“The players drove the culture; there was Sir Alex at the top, he was the leader and we followed him, but he made players feel important and feel that we had to drive it.”

The 47-year-old has seen highs and lows during his time in the Old Trafford dugout already, including big European wins and mixed results in the league.

However, two big waves of winning form have helped to ensure the Norwegian continues to sit in the hottest seat of them all. He won his first eight games in charge to lift spirits around the club, and then there was the 19-match unbeaten run, including 14 wins, in the second half of the 2019/20 season that saw the club clinch a third-place Premier League finish and Champions League football.

Slowly but surely, the Norwegian is moulding his team with an emphasis on young, exciting talent – something his mentor and friend Sir Alex would definitely approve of. Does he find it a difficult balancing act though doing things the “United way” in the modern game?

“The old school core values I think are so important to the DNA of this club,” Solskjaer says. “Being humble, working hard, being a Manchester United type of person, because we know at the weekend there are fans coming to watch us that have been supporting the club for a long time.”

He adds: “We want to give youth a chance, we want to take risks, but in 2020 [it’s different] compared to 1999, you've got to move with the times, the technology, the coaching methods and the management of millennials.”

Comparing his job now to that of Sir Alex, the Norwegian says: “I have to manage the young boys now differently to what Sir Alex did. We talk about millennials and that they need to be spoon-fed, but they also need to be seen and heard and feel important which is still an old school value.”

Solskjaer probably wasn’t expecting a call from United while in charge of Molde for the second time, where he led the club to two Norwegian championships before heading to Wales for a stint in charge at Cardiff City.

Slowly but surely, the Norwegian is moulding his team with an emphasis on young, exciting talent – something his mentor and friend Sir Alex would definitely approve of.

Before that though he led the Manchester United Reserve team and helped Sir Alex and Carlos Queiroz as a forward’s coach at Old Trafford, learning once again from the best.

“I learnt so much from so many good football people with the right values,” he says. “When I went to Molde I brought a couple of friends of mine from United and we built a mini United!”

This is something he’s especially proud of. Solskjaer explains: “When I watch Molde now they are a mini United – it’s not just long balls and crossing which is what I felt Norwegian football was back then and how Molde played [at the time]. We've changed them and I think those years at United helped me and us coming in with a little bit of a different mentality.”

Solskjaer’s task to rekindle the glories of former years remains a difficult one, but on a parallel with clubs at a similar level. Like United, Arsenal and Chelsea have turned to former players at the start of their managerial careers to take them forward. However, they’re not Manchester United.

So what does success look like for the Norwegian at Old Trafford? One thing that will always remain true is that the club has the highest ambitions, and Sir Alex will be supporting Solskjaer all the way.