FJØRTOFT: An YNWA tattoo and a Norwegian manager
Champions League

My brother-in-law and good friend, Aadne, lives on the West Coast of Norway in a small village called Larsnes.
He grew up during a time in which Liverpool won «everything». Two European Cups (Champions League) in 1977 and 1978. Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish. Aadne became a big Liverpool-fan.

Before the time of the internet, he read about his team in the local newspaper and hoped to see his team on Saturdays when our only broadcasting channel, NRK, showed their one match from England. When he talked about his club he didn’t say «Liverpool». He said «we» and «us».

The main rivalry in Norway was between the Liverpool and Manchester United fans. And then there were the rest of us, like myself who grew up a Leeds fan. Their unlucky European Cup final loss versus Bayern Munich in 1975 started off that whole love affair.

While English football felt close in many ways, it also still very far away for our country men. In the 80s, we first had Einar Aas at Nottingham Forest and then Aage Hareide at Manchester City and Norwich. My uncle went to school with Hareide.  I met him when I was 9. That was a big inspiration to me. Now Hareide is a good friend of mine. And I made my debut for Norway when he was one of the main profiles in the national team. But that’s another story reserved for another time.

In the 90s everything exploded. At one time close to 30 Norwegians played in the Premier League. I was one of those who was able to fulfill a life-long dream through spells at Swindon Town, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Barnsley. Even Liverpool got Norwegian players. Our most profiled player there was Stig Inge Bjørnebye at left back. My brother-in-law loved that, but got increasingly frustrated with a certain Scot by the name of Alex Ferguson, who developed a very competitive team at Manchester United to say the least. With «kids». But Aadne agreed with the star TV-pundit at the time. You can’t win the league with kids. Well, turned out they could.

Despite that, Liverpool was still the main team in Norway. Yet, in June of 1996 something changed. Norway played Azerbaijan at Ullevaal. Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored a sensational volley with a Manchester United scout in the stands. And as they say: The rest is history.

As time has progressed, and Liverpool have yet to win a Premier League trophy, the Manchester United supporter club has gotten bigger and bigger. But that hasn’t deprived my brother-in-law of some «once-in-a-lifetime» experiences like the miracle in Istanbul in 2005 when Liverpool won the Champions League.

He got a son, but he became a Manchester United supporter. With his second he took no chances, he was a Liverpool- fan from birth. Aadne got four sons. Three Manchester United fans and one Liverpool fan.

At times, it’s been pretty tough for my brother-in-law. I suppose the highlight was when Sir Alex retired and Manchester United’s subsequent failures in finding the «right» managers. Solskjær’s move back to Norway helped too. Aadne never liked when Norwegians supported United just because of Solskjær. The fact that Liverpool was close, but not close enough, was disappointing, but at least the number of fans of each club remained somewhat equal.

Every season brought with it new-found hope of a Premier League trophy. Through the thick and thin, through the infamous Gerrard slip, through Suarez’ scoring spree and the departure that followed ….my brother in law never lost faith. When Klopp arrived he thought this was the big thing.

«Just wait», he said. «He will win trophies for us.» The Champions League Final last season was a bonus. But it was an indicator of what laid ahead. Of their challenge for the Premier League Trophy.

This season Aadne has been flying. Klopp and his team have been marching on. The Manchester United fans have stayed quiet. In addition to poor results, Mourinho turned them into a boring team to watch as well. That was also a big bonus for my brother-in-law.
When Mourinho was fired, Aadne smiled.

– Not only we will the League, he thought. – But my fellow Norwegian Manchester United fans will sit quietly in a corner and witness it all.

His plan for a YNWA-tattoo could soon come be realized…I must let you know that my brother-in-law is the nicest man alive. A great, selfless family man who always seeks to do right. A tattoo was «one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for a mankind».

What could possibly go wrong? Please, let me introduce to you the new Manchester United -manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

The old rivalry was no longer yesterday’s news. It was breaking news and it was personal for Aadne. The neutral Norwegian football supporters have awaken and now again support Manchester United. A nightmare for any Norwegian Liverpool fan.

Urgently, he got his tattoo. The Solskjær-mania is again spreading in Norway. And Aadne knows. The only thing that can stop this flood wave of new Manchester United fans is Liverpool winning the Premier League….or Ed Woodward sending Solskjær back to Molde.

Jan Åge

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