The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sir Alex all praise for Solskjaer

Seattle: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won the plaudits of his manager after helping Manchester United ease into the post-David Beckham era with a 4-0 victory over Celtic on Tuesday.

The Norwegian, occupying in the right-sided role vacated by Beckham when he signed for Real Madrid earlier this month, scored one goal and created another as the English champions made an emphatic start to their tour of the United States.

“Ole is 30 now and you are seeing a well-rounded and mature player,” United boss Alex Ferguson, who signed Solskjaer from Molde in 1996, told reporters.

“He has been a great player for us... but when he arrived I looked upon him as a substitute. It was difficult for me to use him as a sub but he was treated as one.

“But in the last couple of years he has gained more consistency and strength. That comes from experience, and he was outstanding again tonight (Tuesday).”

Solskjaer made a slow start at Old Trafford, but several goal-scoring appearances as a substitute helped bring him to prominence and he famously scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final.

Ever versatile, he began deputising for Beckham on the right flank last season.

“In the games that really mattered last season, he was a revelation for us,” Ferguson said. “In a way he surprised us, because when you get a player with an eye for a goal and with two good feet, you say his best position is as a striker.

“But he has shown his adaptability by playing wide left and right. His movement and vision has improved terrifically, and he still looks like he's 23. In fact, he can play until he’s 35 or 36 — I still think there is more improvement to come.”

Ferguson’s need for Solskjaer’s contribution is now greater than ever after United’s attempt to sign Brazilian midfielder Ronaldinho failed last weekend.

One new face offering Ferguson options on Tuesday was French winger David Bellion, who took just 12 minutes after coming on as a substitute to score a debut goal for United.

“Bellion is only 20 years of age, and I was pleased for him,” said Ferguson. “He has got a lot of talent but he has a lot to learn as well... Hopefully in two years’ time he will really have developed his game. It was a good way to start our pre-season... the goals we scored were marvellous.”

Martin O’Neill, manager of Scottish club Celtic, was less impressed with his team’s performance. “We were well beaten in the end,” he said. “It showed us we have plenty of work to do... although United are vying with Real Madrid for the title of best team in Europe.”

Alex Ferguson also said that he would be returning to the transfer market to strengthen his squad before the start of next season. But, frustrated after Ronaldinho snubbed the English champions in favour of Barcelona, the Scot will not be rushing out to spend money on new players. (Reuters)

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