MÁLAGA CF – THE GUIRI ARMY

We met Spanish football’s craziest fans. Naturally, they were English.

Words by Danny Brown

When most people think of ultras in Europe, they think balaclavas, pyro, smoke bombs and tifos… Not boozed up brits with beer-bellies, sunburnt heads and cans of lager. But in Malaga, one group of British ex-pats are doing things very differently.

A trendy port city on Spain’s Costa Del Sol, Málaga is best known for it’s lush beaches, restaurants and holiday resorts. The home of Málaga Club De Futbol, who have been playing their football on the south coast since 1904, la Boquerones are one of Spain’s more historic and well-supported clubs. Málaga also happens to be home to around 40,000 British ex-patriots who have decided to ditch the doom and gloom of the UK in favour of the sunshine and beaches of España – and when you stick a bunch of footy-mad Brits and a 115-year-old football club together on the same coast, a love affair is just waiting to happen.

Meet the Guiri Army, a rowdy gang of British ex-pats who have followed Málaga CF home and away for the best part of two decades. Loud, proud and typically English in that they never take themselves too seriously, the group represents one of largest and most active foreign followings of any club in Europe. We caught up with the group’s leader, Dave Redshaw, to find out how the group first fell into existence, plus the story behind their unique name…

“We didn’t actually set out with the intention of forming a group. It more or less just snuck upon us. I first started watching Málaga in 1989 and there has always been a good group of us going to game but I suppose it really kicked off when Málaga got promoted in 1999 and people got interested as they could now see the big teams at La Rosaleda after 10 years out of La Primera. The club folded in the early nineties then re-formed, so the fans had been starved of top-flight football for a while.

I started getting a coach for games instead of us driving our cars and we were filling it regularly. I remember about this time that I was walking back to the bar we use near the ground with one of the lads and I said to him it was about time we got ourselves and identity. I’d been watching the cricket and the Barmy Army, so I suggested we call ourselves the ‘Guiri Army’ as a way of poking fun at ourselves – ‘Guiri’ being a Spanish slang word used to describe a foreigner – typically one who is as white as a milk bottle and wears socks, sandals and Union Jack shorts when on holiday!”

With the name decided on, there was only one thing left to do – the group purchased a giant St Georges Flag complete with their new name with the England and Málaga badges printed either side and the Guiri Army had officially been born. Twenty years later, the group (and flag) are still seen at virtually every Malaga match, home and away – but what exactly does a typical match day look like the Guiri Army? (It’s what you’d expect – a lot of drinking and the odd bit of mischief).

“On a match day we meet in the Lounge Bar in Benalmádena before we set off on the coach, always around two-and-half-hours before the game.
We take our own DVDs and beer with us on the coach, the driver Paco is a good friend of mine so he basically let’s us get away with murder. When we get to Malaga we use a bar called Hermanos Madrid, it’s 10 euros and that includes as many bottles of beer as you want, before and after the match. Bargain!”

Part of the Guri Army match day experience is some of the wacky traditions the group have adopted over the years – from fancy dress to doing a dozen laps of a roundabout near the stadium in their coach on match days (to the bewilderment of the Spanish locals), by far the funniest is one bloke who used to whip off his shirt off before kick off and run the entire length of La Rosaleda holding a giant flag. Fair play.

“The roundabout tradition started when we got our own bus, everyone used to stand and look at us. The driver still does it, he goes around it a dozen times some days! A bloke called Rick used to run with the flag, he’d strip his shirt off and run to one end of the stadium and back, with all the fans egging him on. He doesn’t do it now as the police sort of take a dim view – they actually banned him from doing it at Champions League games!

There’s obviously quite a few characters in the group, all different in their own right. Rick is obviously a real character, a funny guy who is always taking the mickey out of anything and everyone. Then there’s Spider (whose real name is Graham Rimmer), at one time he was in the pop group Chumbawamba (“I get knocked down but I get up again”), although he left before they had their big hit. He’s an absolute lunatic. There’s also a guy called Dutch Tom, who is very funny as well.”

Subtlety isn’t one of the Guri Army’s strong points, as you can probably tell from their bus.

For years, at the heart of the Guri Army’s exploits (and making their roundabout shenanigans possible) was their customised bus – instantly recognisable wherever they went thanks to the 10-foot Union Jack plastered across one side. Sadly now-retired, the coach carried the gang on their adventures across Spain (and even further-afield into Europe), and was at the centre of more than a few hilarious tales for the group over the years:

“We’ve put the bus out to grass now as it’s 32-years-old and way past it’s sell-by date. I remember one time we were coming back from a home game on the coach and one of the wheels fell off, rolled past us and demolished a brand new BMW that was parked at the side of the road – apparently it had been in for a service and the mechanic had forgotten to tighten one of the wheels!

When Malaga played Porto in the Champions League we went on the coach and set off at 4.30AM on the Monday as we were staying overnight for the following day’s game. Coming back, we were just south of Porto when the bus broke down, meaning we ended up staying in a service station overnight. We eventually got back around 2.30am on the Thursday – it was a long trip, but one of the best ever!”

Unsurprisingly, some of the Guiri Army’s best times following Malaga was during the team’s remarkable Champions League run under Manuel Pellegrini back in 2013. Malaga made it within touching distance of the final but were cruelly knocked out by Borussia Dortmund – for the Guiris though, it was the adventure of a lifetime, with trips to Germany, Belgium, Russia, Italy and Portugal to name a few.

“We’ve had some fantastic trips over the years. We went all over Europe in the Champions League. The atmosphere is brilliant and Málaga fans always get behind the team, which isn’t always the case in Spain. It was unbelievable when we were in the Champions League. We had some great nights of European football, both home and away we’ve had even more fantastic trips over the years.”

While large groups of drunken Englishmen are probably a common annoyance for the Spanish locals, the Guiri Army actually have a strong bond with the locals at La Rosaleda and happily occupy their own area of the stadium away from the main Spanish ultras group, the Frente Bokeron. To outsiders though, the group sometimes still falls under the typical perception of English football fans as hooligans – until people quickly realise how different they are.

One time we were coming home from Madrid on the train and one of the lads mistakenly put the flag over a steward’s computer. It was wet and the bloke went mad before calling the police to throw us off the train. On the platform the police were waiting with riot shields etc. – I think they were expecting Millwall or something and got the shock of their lives when they took us off and found out we were just a load of middle-aged blokes who had been drinking since 7.30am! They even showed us where the bar was before we bought tickets for the next train back to Málaga.

The Málaga fans love the fact we all support Malaga and I think they’re quite proud that we’re probably the biggest contingent of British ex-pats in Europe who go to watch their local club. We get on really well with them, although we don’t really associate with the ultras as we congregate in one corner of the ground, whilst they are behind the goal. Despite this, we are members of the Malaka Hinchas supporters club (I’m not quite sure why they spell it with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘g’. Mind you, I know what it means in Greek!) By and large we do get on with the ultras, especially now they are behind the goal at our end of the ground, and we know a few of them.”

What’s more English than getting your teams crest tattooed on your arm? Not much.

While recent times for Málaga have been tough both on and off the pitch, with the club spending the last year playing in Spain’s Segunda Division following their relegation from La Liga and familiar financial troubles looming once again, you’d think it’d be all be doom and gloom amongst the Málaga fans, but think again – for the Guri Army this season has been one big holiday, with their support showing no sign of fading, no matter how much the team struggles.

The current situation doesn’t look too good as I think the only way Málaga will go up this season is via the play-offs. There is also an ongoing court case with the owner Sheikh Al-Thani and Blue Bay Resorts, who claim he promised to sell them shares in the club which would have meant them becoming the new owners, but the mood amongst us that we are not overly bothered if they don’t go up as they’d more than likely come straight back down, as the Sheikh has not put any money in now for over six years.

We kind of like it in this division at the moment as we have a number of relatively near fixtures we get a bus to: Córdoba, Almería, Cádiz and Granada. And this year I’ve been to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, Mallorca and Tenerife, so we get a holiday for a few days at a time! In fact, when we went to Tenerife at the end of January there was 76 of us, including some who came over from the UK, so that was a bit chaotic.

Dave has also written a book dedicated to the turbulent history of Málaga (available in both English and Spanish) which is well worth a read if you’re interested in learning more about the club. Check it out on Amazon here.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK IS THE MAN

Congratulations to Virgil Van Dijk on being crowned PFA Player of the Season. It’s not actually been announced yet, we’re just that confident.

Words by Danny Brown

Congratulations to Virgil Van Dijk on being crowned PFA Player of the Season. It’s not actually been announced yet, I’m just that confident.

Because the truth is, no-one else has been within a sniff of winning the award since around Christmas time. That’s how good Van Dijk has been. Sure, the skill of Sterling, trickery of Hazard and goalscoring of Aguero have all been breath-taking at times this year – but not one player has made anywhere near the impact that big Virgil has had at Anfield this season.

Signed for a whopping £80 million (a record fee for a defender) from Southampton back in January 2018, it’s fair to say big things were always expected from VVD. The towering centre-half had impressed with his solid defending, aerial prowess and calmness on the ball during his time with Celtic and the Saints, and it was hoped he’d be the antidote to the defensive fragilities that had plagued the Reds’ in previous seasons.

Within just a few games of him joining, it was clear Liverpool had got the right man. Van Dijk made his debut on 5 January in the Merseyside Derby, becoming the first player since Bill White to score a derby goal on his debut, scoring a towering header to give Liverpool a 2-1 win. And if there’s a quicker way to become a fan favourite, we’re yet to see it.

For the rest of his debut half-season, Van Dijk went about restoring solidity and calmness to the previously chaotic Liverpool backline. Forging a strong partnership Dejan Lovren at centre back, VVD provided the strong foundation at the back for Salah and Mane to fire Liverpool into the Champions League final, being named in the tournament’s Team of the Year despite only joining at the knockout stages.

It’s this season however that the Dutchman has really proved himself as one of the best in the business. With new-signing Allison playing behind him rather than the disaster-prone Loris Karius, Liverpool have looked rock solid at the back this year and this has laid the foundation for their incredible title charge.

The stats speak for themselves, Liverpool have conceded just 20 goals all season, keeping 19 clean sheets in the process and it looks like they’ll finish the season with just a single loss next to their name. Van Dijk has obviously been at the heart of this and unsurprisingly leads the defensive charts at Anfield for clearances made, aerial battles won and interceptions made.

Other than his obvious defensive credentials, Van Dijk’s calmness under pressure and ability to make impact on the attacking side of the game has made the difference in some of the key moments for Liverpool this season. With 2,663 passes to his name, Van Dijk is the second most successful passer in the league (beaten only by Chelsea’s Jorginho), and has also has 5 goals and 4 assists to his name in all competitions.

It was Van Dijk’s volley that forced an error from Jordan Pickford in Liverpool’s win at Goodison park, allowing Divock Origi to score the vital 96th minute winner. In the 3-1 away win at Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Van Dijk set up Mane’s opening goal with a beautiful 70-yard-assist and then scored from a corner to inspire the Reds to victory.

Another massive moment came in Liverpool’s 2-1 win against Spurs earlier this month – yet another last gasp victory for the Reds that wouldn’t have been possible without a vital contribution from the big man. At 1-1 Spurs went racing through with Sissoko and Son. Isolated at the back, VVD had the awareness to cut off the obvious pass to Son, at the same time forcing Sissoko onto his weaker foot, rewarded when the midfielder skied his effort harmlessly over the bar.

Put most other defenders in the Premier League in that 2-on-1 situation, against a side with attackers as quick and deadly on the break as Spurs have, and nine-times-out-of-ten you’re getting a goal and Liverpool are behind at a vital point in a crucial match in the title race. But not with Virgil Van Dijk.

All this aside, the true influence of Van Dijk can be seen in Liverpool’s remarkable improvement over the last season-and-a-half. Finishing third in the league last year with a total of 75 points, the reds already have smashed that total this season and could potentially end on a staggering 97 points. That distance for a team to climb in just 12 months is simply amazing and it’s no coincidence that Van Dijk’s arrival came in that period.

Presently, there’s three games left to play in the league and depending on the result of the Manchester Derby tonight, Liverpool could be beaten to the post by a single point, courtesy of Manchester City. In any of other season, in any other league this Liverpool side would have already have wrapped up the trophy months ago, but that’s just an indication of the brilliance of Pep Guardiola’s City side that this thrilling title race could still go right down to the wire.

Of course, Liverpool are still fighting on the Champions League stage and there’s every chance they could get to the final again where they’d be desperate to right the wrongs they suffered in Kiev a year ago, and I’d fully back them to do it.

But whatever happens, Van Dijk looks to have all the credentials to become a legend at Anfield. One thing is for certain, he’ll remain a rock at the back for this Liverpool side for years to come – and it’s a side that certainly won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Well played Virgil, you’re the man.

AJAX ARE EXCITING AGAIN

De Jong, De ligt, Tadic & co. are names that many football fans have been familiar with for a number of years. However, I doubt many would have predicted that they would be the biggest names on everyone’s lips going in to the semi finals of this years Champions League.

Words by Neil Boardman

De Jong, De ligt, Tadic & co. are names that many football fans have been familiar with for a number of years. However, I doubt many would have predicted that they would be the biggest names on everyone’s lips going in to the semi finals of this years Champions League.

We have all grown up on a planet that considers Ajax to be one of the biggest teams in world football. A global icon of a football club that is world renowned for its youth academy and revolutionary style of play. However, in recent years the force that is Ajax has been less recognisable, compared to the club that once was.

Four-time European cup winners and one of only four teams to have won the continental treble, Ajax are one of the most successful teams in world football. But it seems that through the 21st century, ‘de Godenzonen’ have become a victim of their own success – losing their winning touch and having to settle for being ‘just’ Dutch champions most years.

However, it seems that the footballing gods have blessed the Amsterdam residents with a new lease of life. A combination of top quality homegrown talent from Jong Ajax and the footballing mind of Erik ten Hag has brought Ajax back into the big time – and it’s bloody wonderful to see.

With fearless performances at two of the world’s most fearful grounds – the homes of Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax played like they know they can. Cutting-edge, attacking football is what the club is so famous for and that’s what we are seeing in 2019 – a team full of youth playing the football that they want to play

In a depressing time in the world (and, often, football) sometimes all we need to cheer ourselves up in the middle of a week, is a nice pint of European lager to sip whilst watching a few blokes (probably a lot younger and cooler than us) kick around a football in a manner that makes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos cry. It’s Ajax that are helping us do that – as the title of this article suggests, it’s exciting. 

Some said that Ajax’s dream wasn’t sustainable after the night in Madrid, however, their antics in Turin have declared to the world that Ajax are back. When the football, they are producing, is this nice, it is hard not to get behind it. Admit it to yourself, it would be great to see the underdogs go all the way and win it, wouldn’t it? A story that would ensure this Ajax’s teams place in history, before, inevitably, all these really lovely players go and start playing in posh towns in Spain for half a million a week. 

All in all, this season’s Ajax team sums up what I love about football. It gets me buzzing for midweek nights and that’s what the European cup is all about. With the club reaching their first European cup semi final since 1997, they have the credentials to go all the way. Into them Ajax – you have my backing. 

THE MOST HATED MAN IN FOOTBALL

Football is a soap opera. It’s got drama, excitement, heroes… and villains. And no-one plays the bad guy quite like Sergio Ramos.

Words by Danny Brown

Football is a soap opera. It’s got drama, excitement, heroes… and villains. And no-one plays the bad guy quite like Sergio Ramos.

Adored by fans at the Bernabeu and despised just about everywhere else, Ramos is the pantomime villain that football fans love to hate. Wiling to stop at nothing to win and well practiced in the Dark Arts, Ramos is the type of guy who would two-foot his nan if it mean winning the Champions League. Just mention his name near a Liverpool fan, and you’re likely to hear the sound of piss boiling.

It’s got to point where Ramos is that much of a bastard, there’s not much you can do but sit back and admire evil at work. After all, who doesn’t love a good anti hero? Tony Soprano, Michael Corleone, Walter White and now Sergio Ramos. With that in mind, here’s six times Ramos proved his reputation as football’s biggest arsehole:

WHEN HE TRIED TO SNAP MESSI’S LEG OFF

As someone who makes a living out of scything people down, Ramos is unsurprisingly no stranger to red cards (he’s got the most in La Liga history), and El Classico is no exception. The games against rivals Barca tend to be a feisty affair and have seen Ramos chalk up an impressive five sendings off.

The best of the bunch is probably the straight red Ramos received for this two-footed lunge on Lionel Messi, would would have taken the Argentinian’s leg clean off (had he not jumped out of the way first.) It’s a horrible challenge but to be fair to Ramos, that’s probably the only way to stop Lionel scoring.

WHEN HE REARRANGED A VICTORIA PLZEN PLAYER’S FACE

While Messi might have escaped the wrath of Ramos (that time at least), one Victoria Plzen player wasn’t quite so lucky. When the Czech side met Real in the group stage of the Champions League, Milan Havel was unfortunate enough to find his face on the end of a sly elbow from Ramos just ten minutes in.

I don’t know what’s worse, Havel being crumpled on the ground in a pool of his own blood or the fact that Ramos clearly wasn’t arsed in the slightest. What a bastard. (Warning – the video’s pretty grim, so if you’re squeamish maybe skip this one.)

HIS VERY DELIBERATE BOOKING AGAINST AJAX

Nothing says cynical like a deliberate yellow card, which is what Ramos decided to pick up during Real’s tie against Ajax back in February. With the first leg wrapped up 2-1 and a suspension hanging over Ramos’ head, the defender hacked down Kasper Dolberg in front of the ref late on ensuring he collected a yellow card.

The booking meant Ramos sat out the return leg at the Bernabeu – meaning he’d be suspension-free and able to hack people down again in the later rounds. For once however Ramos’ actions came back to bite him in the arse, with Ajax, inspired by Dusan Tadic, battering the hosts 4-1 and dumping Madrid (and Ramos) out of the competition.

WHEN HE GOT CUADRADO SENT OFF IN THE CL FINAL

When it comes to shithousing, Ramos has tended to save his very best for Champions League finals. Rewind to 2017, when in a seemingly innocuous exchange Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado ever-so-slightly brushed Ramos’ ankle on his way to collect the ball for a throw in. Big mistake.

Naturally, Ramos decided to throw himself on the ground, roll about a bit and hold his foot in fake agony. It would have been hilarious, had the linesman two inches away not somehow fallen for it and told the ref to send Cuardrado off. Juventus were reduced to 10 men and Real went on to win 4-1.

AND THEN INJURED MOHAMMED SALAH THE YEAR AFTER

It was in last year’s Champions League final that Ramos really established himself as the most hated bloke in football (look away now Liverpool fans). His victim was Mo Salah, Liverpool’s prolific Egyptian striker, who had pretty much single-handedly fired the reds into the final with his 10 goals scored in the competition.

With Salah on-fire, Liverpool came into the match with their eyes firmly on the trophy. But as always, Ramos had other ideas. An innocent tussle for the ball turned WWE takedown later and Liverpool’s talisman was limping off the pitch in tears. The rest is history, two mistakes from a concussed Lorius Karius (also thanks to you-know-who) later and Real had a 3-1 win.

AND RUBBED SALT IN THE WOUND AT UEFA’S AWARD CEREMONY A FEW MONTHS LATER

If you thought injuring Salah in the biggest game of his career and snatching away Liverpool’s chance of a historic Champions League trophy would be enough for Ramos, then you’d be wrong. (Credit for this one also has to go partly to whichever genius at UEFA comes up with the seating plans for major award ceremonies.)

It was at a swanky UEFA awards do that Ramos decided to make his best attempt to replace Maggie Thatcher as the most hated person in Merseyside. Lurking behind Salah all night like some sort of demon in a three-piece suit, Ramos’ smugness was there for all to see as he collected his award, giving Salah an infamous brush on the shoulder as he returned to his seat.

As Tony Montana once said: “This is the last time you ever gonna see a bad guy like me.” Never change, Sergio. You horrible man.


OLE’S AT THE WHEEL (FOR GOOD)

In just a few months, United have gone from their worst ever Premier League start, playing negative, non-football under Jose Mourinho to a team that’s flying, showing glimpses of the confidence and swagger not seen at Old Trafford since the Fergie days.

Words by Danny Brown

To celebrate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s official appointment as Man United manager, we’ve decided to take a look at the Norwegian’s incredible turnaround at Old Trafford so far this season.

Now I’m not a Manchester United fan, far from it. But no-one can deny that the Red Devils’ resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season has been nothing short of remarkable. In just a few months, United have gone from their worst ever Premier League start, playing negative, non-football under Jose Mourinho to a team that’s flying, showing glimpses of the swagger and confidence not seen at Old Trafford since the Fergie days.

Let’s go back to December. A humbling 3-1 defeat to Liverpool had proved to be the final nail in Jose Mourinho’s money-lined coffin and The Big Bad Wolf was finally out of the door. But with United having had their worst start to a Premier League season ever and trailing the top four by 11 points, it seemed at the time like, no matter who came in, the rest of the season would be just as bleak.

Rather than rush into another full-time appointment (and probably with one eye on Zidane in the Summer), Ed Woodward and the gang opted to appoint a caretaker til the end of the season. Solskjaer was the man they chose, a club legend (scorer of the famous treble winning goal in 1999, no less), a cheerful chap with modest managerial experience, inside knowledge of the club and a pre-existing bond with the supporters bound to improve the mood around Old Trafford, if nothing else.

In his first few games in charge, United collected three emphatic wins against Cardiff (5-1), Huddersfield (3-1) and Bournemouth (4-1). All games you could argue they were expected to beat (even under Jose). But it was the manner of these victories that really caught the eye. Whereas under Mourinho, United would have gone out to secure a safe 1-0 or 2-0 win against these mid-to-lower-table sides (boring half the stadium to sleep in the process), Solskjaer’s United came out to attack, and attack often.

It was like watching a completely different team. A throwback to a different Man United era. This was a set of players, who had looked so dysfunctional and stifled at times under Mourinho, playing with a freedom and confidence not seen this season at Old Trafford. For the first time in months, United were getting the ball out wide, running at defences, playing fast, exciting football. Playing the United way.

Ole himself explained it as: “Pace and power, that’s what we are. We attack quickly when we can. Get the ball up in their half as soon as we can, as quickly as we can. If you score, fantastic, if not then you’ve got to have patient build-up play. But attack, quickly.” Comparing United’s style of play to his own playing days, he referenced attacking talents such as Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke (‘Yorkie’), Ryan Giggs (‘Giggsy’) and David Beckham (‘Becks’).

What was shocking to learn was that with their 5-1 win against Cardiff, United had recorded five goals against an opponent for the first time since the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. Such is United’s decline in recent years, that teams that would have once gone to Old Trafford praying to avoid a five or six-nil thumping were now going there with a genuine belief they might be able to nick a point (or three).

These early results, along with Solskjaer’s sentiments in his early press conferences, quickly saw the United back onside. You can hardly blame them, after suffering the ‘Special One’s negativity, melodrama and mind games for for the last two-and-half years, Solskjaer’s refreshingly old-school and honest approach, delivered in his half-Norwegian, half-Mancunian accent must be like a welcome breath of fresh air for Red Devils fans.

What Solskjaer may lack in experience and tactical knowledge, he more than makes up for in his understanding of the history and tradition that’s at the heart of United. Having played for the club for over a decade under the mentorship of Sir Alex Ferguson, there’s not many people in football more equipped to continue the United tradition. “We’re playing for the supporters, we’re playing for our pride, we’re playing for the clubs history.”

So far Ole has done everything right. His faith in Paul Pogba, something the Frenchman was clearly lacking under Mourinho, is being repaid on the pitch. Alexis Sanchez has been quietly eased onto the fringes and Marouane Fellaini sold. Perhaps most impressive of all, Romelo Lukaku, made to look like a donkey at times under Mourinho, is now finally playing like a £75 million striker.

But by far the most defining moment in Solskjaer’s short tenure has the remarkable turnaround against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League. Going into the first coasting off the back of ten victories out of Solskjaer’s first eleven games, the reds were brought swiftly back down to earth by the 2-0 defeat inflicted on them by PSG at home, with Paul Pogba earning himself a late red card to make matters even worse.

Going to the Parc des Princes with a two-goal deficit, a suspension and a handful of injuries and winning is no easy feat. But when Romelu Lukaku, rejuvenated under Solskjaer, gave United a shock lead just two minutes into the reverse tie – it became abundantly clear, that the United players on the pitch backed themselves to do just that.

Not even PSG restoring their deficit through Bernat ten minutes later was enough to soften United’s resolve, Lukaku getting his second before half time to put United one strike away from clinching the tie on away goals. A tense second half wore on, and it seemed like PSG’s one-goal advantage was going to be good enough for them to sneak through into the quarters.

Then in the dying seconds, a speculative shot from Diego Dalot struck the arm of Presnel Kimpembe inside the PSG box. A lengthy VAR review later, United had a spot kick, with Marcus Rashford, their Mancunian-born academy product standing over it. Ice running through his veins, the 21-year-old stepped up and smashed the ball home, sending United through in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Since Solskjaer took over, United have won 14 games, drawing two and losing three. They’ve seen impressive wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs and gone 11 points adrift of the top four to just two points behind Arsenal in fourth. They’re in the quarter finals of the Champions League and playing their most exciting football in months. All things considered, it seemed almost impossible for United not to keep him on full time.

The three-year deal given to Solskjaer by United makes him the club’s fourth permanent manager since Fergie’s departure in 2016, and they’ll be hoping that Ole is finally the perfect-fit they’ve been looking for since then. If he can continue the start he’s made this season, then the signs are he could finally be the man to restore United to their former success, over the next few years and beyond.

However one important thing to note is that we’re yet to see Solksjaer under any sort of real hardship at United. As unstoppable as they may seem at present, the ‘honeymoon period’ must come to an end eventually and when it does, is when we’ll see what the Norwegian’s management credentials are really made of. At the time of writing United have lost their last two games on the bounce and Ole will be desperate to return to winning ways against Watford on Saturday.

But for now: “Ole’s at the wheeeel…”