Chopping down the Forest: When Solskjaer Scored Four

From the Archives

Date: 6th February, 1999

Nottingham Forest 1 ( Rogers )

Manchester United 8 ( Yorke 2, Cole 2, Solskjaer 4 )

Attendance: 30,025

Nottingham Forest were struggling near the foot of the Premier League when United rolled into town. The Red Devils, fighting on three fronts of domestic league, FA cup and Champions league, were the last thing that the tricky trees wanted.

The game started with United on the front foot. Winning a corner down the left hand side which was floated in by Beckham, finding its way past the far side of the area, Roy Keane, booed by the home support, rolled the ball back to Scholes who’s first time cross was swept in at the front post by Dwight Yorke on two minutes. 0-1

Forest though, were not going to lie down, well not just yet anyway! Some clever control on the half way line by Jean Claude Darcheville, saw him release Alan Rogers on the left. The pair combined with a neat one two, before Rogers unleashed a fantastic strike into the far bottom corner of Schmeichel’s net. Six minutes played and already the crowd were sensing a cracker. 1-1

Unfortunately for Nottingham Forest, it was a case of prodding a sleeping lion, when all you have to defend yourself with is a cheese string. A long ball from back to front by Jaap Stam, sent Andy Cole on his bike. Out came the helpless Dave Beasant, only to be beaten to the ball by the United forward, who touched it round the keeper and placed it into the empty net. 1-2

The thing with United at this stage of the season was that once they got in front, it was very difficult to peg them back. Specially now the gap had risen to two goals! Beckham, arcing a lovely cross into the box, caused chaos. Both defenders attacking the same ball, yet not winning it as Yorke was given half the freedom of Nottingham. His shot was well saved low to his left by Beasant, except he could only push it out, and like all good strikers, Andy Cole was on hand to get his second and United’s third. 1-3

Heads were starting to drop now, in the red of Forest. Beckham, spraying a lovely ball out to the left flank to the Swede, Blomqvist, who then went on a mazy run into the Forest box, turning one way then the other, leaving Hjelde with twisted blood. His cross, was deflected onto his own post by a Forest defender, and Yorke was on hand to get a brace of his own. United were rampant. 1-4

Now with the game put to bed and bigger fish to fry, Sir Alex Ferguson saw it fit to remove Yorke from the action and replace him with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The story goes that as the Norwegian was removing his tracksuit top to go on, he was told to just go on and have a run out. Don’t make any mistakes and keep the team playing. Simple enough instructions, no?

Ole though, decided that he wanted a piece of the goalscoring pie. He didn’t have to wait long. Just six minutes after making his entrance, Solskjaer was left unmarked to tap in a cross from Gary Neville. Beckham, releasing his overlapping mate, who delivered a low and hard cross along the six yard line to the baby faced assassin. 1-5

The home side were dead on their feet. Passes literally going straight to a white shirted United player. Beckham, who was instrumental in the midfield that day, played a long ball up to Solskjaer. The Norwegian beat the offside trap and bore down on Beasant’s goal. The veteran keeper rushed out to face Ole, who tried to chip the keeper at first, Beasant, thwarting him, unfortunately the ball bouncing back to Ole who danced past the keeper and fired into the empty net. A brace for Solskjaer as well. 1-6

At this point whatever fans that were left, were treated to something quite rare. A substitute scoring four goals. And all in the final ten minutes of the game. And can I just say that it was the United fans, not the City Ground faithful, who were left to visualise this substitution masterclass.

Paul Scholes, playing a one two with Jesper Blomqvist, shaped to shoot from about 25 yards, instead playing a delightful chip to his left. Ole Solskjaer controlled the ball before letting it bounce and volleying in from the edge of the box. Beasant just waved it by. The hat trick was complete. Ole would be taking home the match ball. Not bad for 16 minutes work. But he wasn’t finished there! 1-7

His final goal was like a catalogue of errors, both from the attacking side and defending team. United again attacking the poor Forest back line. If they were a racehorse, they would of been put down. A ball played across the area by Nicky Butt, was mis-controlled by Andy Cole. Paul Scholes rushing onto the ball looked certain to smash it into the net, except his air kick made its way to Solskjaer, who was going to make no mistake. Goal number four was dispatched into the corner of the net. 1-8

Nottingham Forest would go on to be relegated that season. The writing was definitely on the wall that day. United on the other hand, well they had a pretty decent end to their season and Ole’s exploits from the bench were not the last that we would see.

To be honest I was sitting there at 4-1 and thinking, I won’t be coming on today, it didn’t like like he was going to put me on because Andy and Dwight were on fire as well but the manager said ” Ole, come change “. Jim Ryan said to me that we don’t need any more goals, just keep the ball and play it simple. Unfortunately I don’t like to do it that way do I? – Solskjaer after the game.

Nottingham Forest: Beasant, Harkes, Rogers, Armstrong, Palmer, Hjelde, Gemmill, Johnson, Stone, Van Hooijdonk, Darcheville. Subs: Crossley, Bart-Williams, Mattsson, Freedman, Porfirio.

Manchester United: Schmeichel, G. Neville, Johnsen, Stam, P. Neville, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Blomqvist, Cole, Yorke. Subs: Van Der Gouw, Butt, May, Curtis, Solskjaer

About the Author

John McNicoll
Southern Red and Football enthusiast.