Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on goalscoring: 'I wasn't born with it, I studied finishing, I studied goals'
The Manchester United caretaker manager wants to draw on his own experience from his playing days to help forwards at Old Trafford such as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial develop
Marcus Rashford had become frustrated with life under Jose Mourinho by the start of this month.
Like many players, he has been lifted by the arrival of a new manager and in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer; the 21-year-old Mancunian has reason to feel more optimistic.
While fellow forwards Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku are in the frame to feature at Old Trafford against Bournemouth on Sunday, Rashford should start his seventh successive league game.
“Marcus has got his own motivation to become the best player he can be,” said Solskjaer ahead of the game.
“He practises a lot. He has got far more than I did in terms of his physical attributes, his pace, his strength and striking the ball from outside the box.”
In Solskjaer, Rashford can learn from a proven goalscorer, who netted some of United's most important goals in recent times.
“Maybe I can give him a little bit of the nous that I had inside the box,” explained the Norwegian. “I’m talking about the little moves you make to get free, that little bit of calmness in front of goal.
Marcus is 21. He’s still learning. The most important thing I can see is to just settle him down in front of goal.
“I've seen him rush a few finishes. He thinks ‘I've got to get a shot off early’ when sometimes you just pass it past the keeper. I always say that the goal never moves."
A striker, according to Solskjaer, never stops learning. Asked if you can learn the strikers’ art, Solskjaer replied: “I wasn't born with it. I studied finishing, I studied goals, I studied movement.
“I worked on my mentality because that’s key. You will always miss chances but you can’t do anything about them once they’ve gone. It’s always about the next chance. You have got to be one step ahead as a striker, to create that space you need.
“Apart from the ball, when you’re a striker it is space that’s your best friend. You need space."
Solskjaer’s first job at Old Trafford after he finished playing was working as a forwards’ coach, where he worked with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.
“I worked with Cristiano, Wayne, Danny Welbeck, Tevez was here," he recalls. "That was a good start for me!
“But my strength was putting the ball in the net and I am sure I can give these boys a little bit of detail into scoring goals. But in terms of talent and physical attributes, the strikers here have got loads more than I had.”
Solskjaer is happy to help them improve in his role as caretaker manager.
“I will pass my knowledge on and it will be a lot easier when you look at all the videos and computer software we have got to work with," he added. “I want to get into their heads. I want to learn what they are thinking.
"The only thing they can control is what’s going on in their heads and how to approach different situations mentally.
“Throughout my life, ever since I played for Clausenengen back home, instead of listening to the teacher at school I was writing down all the chances I missed in a book thinking ‘I should have done this.’ Scoring goals was all I thought about.”
Solskjaer is working with serious – yet underperforming this season – talent at United. Yet despite scoring eight goals in their last two games, United scored fewer goals than four of the five teams above them.
“We have always had top, top strikers at this club,” said the Norwegian. “I’ve played with so many of the great ones. To win games, you need to score goals. To score goals, you need top strikers – and we’ve got top strikers.
“But it’s about confidence as well. I have got a diary back home from when I first met Bill Beswick (a psychologist) when I first came to the club. He made me aware of how important it is to work on your confidence.
“I’ve got a diary of what I was thinking and how I reacted to different situations within games. The diary starts with me writing ‘I’ve had enough of bad performances and bad confidence’ - and that was when I was a 27-year-old.
“All the strikers here – apart from Alexis – are a lot younger than 27, so we can work on the mental side.”
But how to work on it?
“It’s about focusing in training, scoring loads of goals during training sessions. If you haven’t scored enough during the session then finish the day off by doing lots of finishing," he explained.
"Finishing is different to shooting. If you work at in in training sessions then you will just do it naturally during the game. The one way of getting better is by practising – both on and off the pitch.”
Another young forward is Anthony Martial.
“Anthony can play as a No 9, of course, because he’s got strength and he’s good an holding the ball up," Solskjaer said. "But he is fantastic at one-one-one, so he can also play on the left or right wing.
“I’ve had chats with him and he can play in all those positions. As a defender you don’t want to be dropping off towards your own goals with him running at you.
“So we need to get Anthony facing forwards. I realised when I was a striker that when I ended up wide on the left or right, it can be so much easier to get space and face defenders up. I think Anthony enjoys playing wide, taking me on.”
Solksjaer added that he hoped goalkeeper David de Gea wants to sign a new contract and that the grass isn’t greener at another club.
It might have been a month ago, mind.
Updated: December 30, 2018 02:30 AM