Wes Brown can see the fingerprints of Sir Alex Ferguson on the Manchester United team transformed under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Since replacing Jose Mourinho in December in a caretaker role, Solskjaer has put forward a near-perfect case to take the job permanently, with United unbeaten and back in the top four while playing with a verve rarely seen since Ferguson retired in 2014.
Brown, who was a team-mate of Solskjaer’s throughout the Norwegian’s 11-year Old Trafford career, has watched on with admiration as United have returned to the formula which made them so successful throughout Ferguson’s 27-year spell in charge.
“One of Ole’s big things is he’s taken everything that Sir Alex tried to teach him and he’s teaching it to the lads now,” Brown told Press Association Sport.
“That can only be a good thing, be that in the way he speaks to players individually or the way he’s gone about it on the pitch as well.
“He’s brought Mike Phelan in as well, he was a huge part of Sir Alex’s team, and he’s managed to get everyone playing again, he’s got them all enjoying it. Confidence is high and it’s been showing on the pitch.”
The changes go deeper than what is seen on the pitch, however.
Solskjaer has taken care of details in the background, from getting players wearing suits to away matches again to visiting the less glamorous departments of the club to thank staff, helping to restore pride at every level.
“He’s refreshed everyone,” Brown said. “There are smiles back on everyone’s faces, not just on the pitch but at Carrington and Old Trafford, so he himself has brought that back.
“Results have then spoken for themselves with the way he’s got the lads playing again, playing more as a team.
“Everything’s been more than expected.”
Brown was speaking at a Manchester United foundation event to launch new film The Kid Who Would Be King, which carries a message of the value of teamwork. It is a message Brown has seen in the way United are now playing.
“He’s got excellent players, world-class players, and whatever he’s been doing seems to have pulled them all together, getting the best out of them, so they are getting the results,” he said.
“That’s what Man United is all about.”
It has been enough to convince Brown that Solskjaer can take United forward in the long term and he now hopes to see his old team-mate get that chance.
One of Ferguson’s most famous managerial tools was his ‘hairdryer’ – the intense verbal volleys which anyone under-performing risked hearing in the dressing room.
The baby-faced Solskjaer is usually seen with a beaming smile and it is hard to think of the 45-year-old doling out similar treatment, but Brown has seen both sides.
“Yeah, I’ve seen Ole upset,” he said with a laugh. “It’s like anyone if things are going bad you can get upset.
“Maybe not with another player, it might be with yourself, but I’m sure Ole is more than capable, when needed, to throw out some sort of a hairdryer.”
Wes Brown was speaking at a special screening of The Kid Who Would Be King with the Manchester United Foundation. The Kid Who Would Be King is out in cinemas.
- Press Association