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When Ronny Johnsen arrived at Old Trafford in July 1996 for £1.5 million he was already a highly experienced defender at club and international level. Born in Norway, he played most of his football in his native country with the likes of Stokke, Eik Tonsberg, Lyn Oslo and Lillestrom. His international career began in 1991 and he has been a regular since, staring in Norway's 1994 World Cup campaign and again in France '98.

With a growing reputation abroad he was soon leaving Norway to plow his trade in Turkey with Besiktas. A successful spell there was ended when Alex Ferguson came in for him and Johnsen had no hesitation in joining countryman Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

With Gary Pallister and David May a settled partnership for United at that time, Johnsen wasn't going to walk straight into the starting eleven. But when injuries struck he got his chance and didn't disappoint, making his debut as a substitute at Wimbledon. His exceptional pace, strength in the air and excellent man-marking ability made him an instant success.

His versatility is also a major strength of his game. Rather than being limited to playing central defence, Johnsen can move into midfield as a stopper similar to Roy Keane, and has performed the task admirably when called upon. With Roy Keane's long lay-off in 1997-98, Johnsen was called upon to perform that role on a more regular basis. One of his best midfield performances came in the 3:2 win over Juventus at Old Trafford when he kept a watchful eye on the French wizard Zinedine Zidane.

However one of his best performances came for his country in France '98. In their last group game, Norway had to beat Brazil in Marseille and did so, thanks in no small part to Ronny Johnsen's marking Ronaldo out of the game. Afterwards he was christianed the "Miracle of Marseille" for his performance. More proof of his growing reputation on the world stage as a top class defender.

Defenders usually way in with their fair share of goals through the years and Ronny Johnsen is no exception. His first goal against Chelsea was in the 1997 Charity Shield but more important ones include opening goals against Wimbledon and Liverpool, and a strike against Nottingham Forest, all at Old Trafford.

£1.5 million is looking more and more a bargain every time Johnsen pulls on the red shirt.


Patrick Eustace 2000. Last modified on Thurs, 27 Jan, 2000

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