‘Cos United are going to Oslo
After a 2 and a half month break following the most underwhelming end to a season in years, United are back. Maybe not quite yet in the sense that we want; Ole has had a tough summer of rebuilding and the challenge this coming season will be to close the gap on Liverpool and City. A massive ask given we finished the season over 30 points behind them. It’s another year of the Europa League too, a competition we’d rather not be in but that we’d hope United can go all the way in.
First though it’s the end of pre-season, United looking good and unbeaten in 4 games over the summer, with the penultimate match in Oslo. It’s a bit of a no brainer for United’s commercial and marketing teams to schedule a game in Norway, with Ole’s appointment as manager still fresh. There often is a preseason game in Scandinavia to cater to the masses of fans based there, and there’s been matches at Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadion in 2012 and 2017.
The opponents for our trip are Ole’s hometown team Kristiansund BK, rather than the much anticipated Molde, his former employers. Kristiansund is the fifth largest city in Norway, over 350 miles north of Oslo. The whole country is sparsely populated, but with the main cities in the south, whilst the Norwegian coast encloses the whole of Sweden and Finland and forms a border with Russia.
Travelling to Oslo
The options for travelling to Oslo in July weren’t quite as cheap as I’d anticipated, but it did fall in the peak summer holiday period and, even more surprisingly, the southern parts of Norway were forecast 30 degree weather! A few months prior to the trip there were various flight options on SAS, with indirect flights priced around £150 and direct flights just over £200; we eventually booked at £215. We even had the pleasure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer making the flight out with us (we flew the Friday night before the Tuesday match) but alas, no picture…
Oslo’s main airport is situated around 24 miles north of the city, away from the coast; it’s only a 20 minute train journey for £36 return per person – much more reasonable than a taxi which worked out double the cost. The travel in and around Oslo itself worked out pretty reasonably too; aside from the airport subsidy, all of the other public transport (including boats to the islands) worked on the same system, with a single journey £3, and savings for weekly tickets too. The bus & trams got us everywhere we needed to go in and around the city which made it really convenient.
The City of Oslo
Once in central Oslo, our accommodation for the week – the Frogner House Apartments – was just a short bus ride, less than 2 miles west of the city. As well as the frequent public transport, and like other European cities, there were Lime scooters dotted around everywhere too. Easy to scan and go (through the app) and a much more fun way to whizz about for a few quid at a time.
The area of Frogner, west of the city centre, sits between two parks; the predictable Frognerparken and the Slottsparken (Palace Park). It was an interesting visit to the former, home to the ‘Vigeland installation’ which consists of 212 bronze and granite sculptures of various human forms, ‘The Angry Boy’ being one of the main attractions. At the opposite end of Frogner sits the Royal Palace, looking down over Oslo with the palace square leading away into Karl Johans gate and the more vibrant areas of the city.
Parliament square sits in the middle of this largely shopping district, with the Cathedral tucked a little further away. Following the roads round to the seafront the imaginative Opera House comes into view; designed to look like a glacier rising up out the water, the sloped roof is a (steep) walkway to the top, with views of the city and out to the fjords.
Oslo sits on a bit of a slope, with the harbour at the bottom. There was a good choice of bars and restaurants in the area, pricier than anywhere else in the city – pints almost £11 compared to around £8-9 elsewhere (Champagneria, Frogner, was a personal favourite bar). The seafood was fresh and really reasonable though. There are regular boat trips out to see the nearby fjords, a perfect activity for the 30 degree sun with the sea breeze refreshing. The Nobel Peace Center (the museum of the Nobel Peace Prize) and the bold, red brick Oslo City Hall (which hosts the annual peace prize ceremony) make up the rest of the square at the harbour.
A final sight worth making the short trip out of the city for was the Munch museum. Here the lifes work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch are housed, notably ‘The Scream’ and ‘Madonna’, before they move to a new central, museum in 2020.
A 10 minute train journey north of central Oslo took us straight to the Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo’s national stadium. Home to the Norwegian national team, the ground is built around what seems like a small shopping centre, with everything from Dominos Pizza to a Coop store integrated into the exterior.
After the delights of paying around £9 a pint in the city, I was interested to see what they might charge in the ground, which is never the cheapest place to drink anyway. Surprisingly, despite a near capacity crowd, there was no beer on offer, or much in terms of refreshments at all. With United in town I’d of expected the stadium to try and cash in, but seemingly not. ‘Event Sponsors’ Ticketmaster will certainly have made a good profit though, managing the sale of the £88 (975 kr) match tickets.
The game itself was perhaps a bit of a warning for the season ahead, United looking comfortable with almost 75% possession and creating chances; 33 shots with 12 on target, but relying on a 92nd minute penalty to win the game. Ole played perhaps the strongest XI (with the exception of Pogba, who’s future is still a little up in the air) for the first 60 minutes before changing the full team for the final half an hour.
There were some promising performances from the likes of Wan-Bissaka, McTominay and Chong, the defence looking a little more stable (with Maguire still to come) but facing a couple of good goalkeeping performances, which is something United always need to be able to overcome. The real spectacle came from a late substitution for Kristiansund, who had 5,000 vocal, travelling fans behind one goal; 19 year old Noah Solskjaer making his debut in a fitting fixture.
We spent 5 days in Oslo, which could have been even longer really. There was so much to see and do which helped to offset the price of drinking! United have had a pretty good pre season up to now, and so the result was a little frustrating. There’s clearly a few positions that need improving slightly to take us to the next level, but Ole’s system and approach is definitely moving things forward. So onto the final pre season game in Cardiff before the main action gets underway!
Total travel costs: £258
Miles travelled: 1,358
Accommodation: £79/night (double room – £40pp)
Match ticket: £88 (975 kr)
Average cost of pint: £9.15
Result: Kristiansund 0 – United 1
Match played 30/07/19