Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said recently that he has been thinking hard about some of the team talks delivered in the past by Sir Alex Ferguson.
As a reference point for management in the Champions League, it’s not a bad place to start.
Talking about great United glories of which he was part, Solskjaer told ESPN: ‘I ask myself, “What did we do to get there? What kind of master team talks did he have?” There was a pattern to what he said.’
Few of Ferguson’s skills exceed his motivational gifts and few can ever hope to emulate his longevity in that department.
When Ferguson’s team flew to Barcelona for what would be their greatest triumph 20 years ago next month, it was a journey taken by Concorde and even Roy Keane was impressed.
‘He was always looking for an edge,’ said Keane.
What Ferguson also had back then was a team of great players. It is only when we look back at that triumph now that we truly realise that.
Solskjaer is not blessed with this, and that is what makes Tuesday’s attempt to reach a first Champions League semi-final in eight years so daunting.
The new United manager said after an unconvincing 2-1 win against West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday that his side must not take inspiration from what happened two decades ago, but instead from what happened in winning at PSG in the previous round in March.
But what he needs more than any of that is a much better performance. Much was said post-Paris about the quality of United’s play in their 3-1 win.
The more prosaic truth is that the victory in no way reflected the nature of the game, and if United do not improve on that on Tuesday they will go out.
On Tuesday, United face a talented Barcelona team but the Spanish league-leaders are not unbreakable. Solskjaer’s team could and should have scored against them in losing 1-0 at Old Trafford.
In the Nou Camp United must take what chances come their way and they simply must defend better than at any time this season.
Solskjaer will take a hammer to this squad in the summer as he tries to erase the missteps of those who came before him.
From that point of view, Tuesday represents yet another free hit. Fortune will not see United through once again, though.
Another miracle will only arrive if it has the best performance of Solskjaer’s time in charge at its very heart.