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Good player for Manchester United, shame about the injuries- that is the way in which you can sum up Ronny Johnsen’s time at Old Trafford. Johnsen will probably most be remembered for his part in the club’s treble winning season, when he formed a solid defensive partnership with Jaap Stam. He was originally a speedy winger but converted through to a centre-back during his career. This came in to real use during his days a defender when he often caught up with the fastest of attackers and used his very good reading of the game to great effect. He had a tremendous professional attitude which made him loved by fans, and enjoyed his prime role in United teams of the late 90s. His full name is Jean Ronny Johnsen, so whatever happened to him?
The Norwegian initially started out his professional career in his homeland and played for two clubs in Norway called Lyn Oslo, from 1992-1993, and then for Lillestrom. At Oslo he played in 31 games and contributed with seven goals, whilst at Lillestrom he made 23 appearances and scored four times. The number of goals is interesting because at that point in his career Johnsen was regarded as a midfield player. He could either play in a defensive midfield position or as a winger- the latter was quite rare. As he was establishing himself in the Norwegian league, Turkish club Besiktas came knocking on the door and Johnsen moved there in the season of 95-96. This is the only season he spent in Turkey and played in 22 games for the club before a £1.2m transfer to Manchester United in the summer of 1996.
This was to prove as Johsnen’s first spell of longevity at a club. After previously having short spells at three clubs, this was to be a period of his career where he would mix success with a string of injuries which would ultimately hamper his time at United. All in all he stayed at Old Trafford for six years, clocked up just fewer than 100 appearances (99) and can claim to have won four league titles, one FA Cup and of course a dramatic win in the Champions League final of 1999. The last of which was a competition in which Johsnen’s versatility, from his earlier days, came in to real benefit for himself and United. In the semi-final first leg, away to Juventus, he played in central midfield due to injuries/suspensions to regular players and performed admirably in such an important night. He was rewarded with a starting place, in defence, with Jaap Stam in the final against Bayern Munich in Barcelona. Though he won many medals at United, Johnsen will feel that he could have played even more of a part at the club because his time was blighted mainly be a chronic knee injury. Along with some defining games in his career for the Red Devils, Johnsen scored eight goals and remained with the club all the way until his contract expired at the end of the 01/02 season. He was then given a free transfer.
As the dust settled on his time in England, he and fellow Norwegian international, a player familiar with Premiership fans – Oyvind Leonhardsen – had a trial with German side Schalke. That move fell through so Johnsen returned to the Premiership and signed for Aston Villa. He spent two seasons at Villa, and it seemed that his value as a player to the club was not as useful as it was during his time with United. If anything it seemed that having had injuries earlier in his career limited what he could offer to Villa and he was subsequently sold to Newcastle in 2004. Once again Johnsen was unrecognisable from his involvements in Manchester United’s treble winning season and after just three games with the Tyneside club he was released with concerns over his fitness levels.
That was to finally be it for Johnsen as a player in England, and seemingly as a player for good. In February 2005 he announced that he was retiring from the game, only for him to change his mind and head back home to sign a one-year contract with Valerenga, where he had his contract extended for the 06/07 and 07/08 seasons. He retired for good in November 2008.
Johnsen has been seen representing the United Masters Football five-a-side team up until recently and currently he deals in real estate in Norway.
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