No one had bothered to tell Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United were one of the driving forces in a plan to hijack the game and create a European Super League.
The conspirators at Old Trafford had ignored the man charged with taking them into the Champions League, while it still exists. “I have seen the speculation or news this afternoon,” said Solskjaer, sounding unsure if it was speculation or news.
As their manager, he might have expected to have been informed earlier. As the scorer of one of the most dramatic goals in Champions League history, he might have been offended by their plans to scrap the competition that defined him. He didn’t sound it, though.
A political animal like Jose Mourinho probably would not have been left in the dark, but he would have complained vociferously and quotably if he had been. A United manager who had been aware of everything at every level at the club in his time spoke out. “Talk of a Super League is a move away from 70 years of European club football,” said Sir Alex Ferguson. “Fans all over love the competition as it is. In my time at United, we played in four Champions League finals and they were always the most special of nights.”
Ferguson has not always stood up for the wider good – he supported the Glazers’ takeover – but he is the link to the past and his greatest predecessor, Sir Matt Busby, almost died in his quest for the European Cup, a decade before he eventually won it. “To even contemplate walking away from that competition would be a betrayal of everything his club has ever stood for,” said the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust.
Three of Solskjaer’s old team-mates, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Roy Keane, spoke eloquently and passionately against a breakaway.
Solskjaer did not. Perhaps he was put in an impossible position, with those actually responsible too cowardly to show their voices, but a muted response made him seem the smiling yes-man, too unimportant to be in the loop, too guileless to be lying.