Jesper Olsen moved from Ajax to England in July 1984, joining Manchester United for a fee of £350,000, signed by manager Ron Atkinson. He scored a total of 24 goals (including a hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion in a 3–0 Football League First Division home win on 22 February 1986) in his five-year spell at the club.
He collected an FA Cup winner's medal in 1985, when United beat Everton 1–0 in the final at Wembley. He also helped them establish a runaway lead at the top of the First Division in the 1985–86 season, where they won their first 10 league games and remained top of the table until well into the new year before floundering and finishing fourth in the table.
He was called up to the Danish squad for the 1986 World Cup, and scored two goals in the three preliminary group stage matches, but he will always be remembered for making a grave mistake in the round of 16 match against Spain. He gave Denmark the lead on a penalty kick, but just before half-time he collected a ball from goalkeeper Lars Høgh. When he tried to return the ball to Høgh, his pass ended up straight in front of Emilio Butragueño instead. The Spanish striker levelled the game, and eventually went on to score four goals in the game that Denmark lost 1–5. Consequently, the term en rigtig Jesper Olsen (a real Jesper Olsen) entered the Danish lexicon.
During October 1986 Olsen had a bust-up with midfield colleague Remi Moses and by the end of the month he was put on the transfer list by manager Ron Atkinson. However, Atkinson was sacked as manager a week later due to United's dismal start to the season, and his successor Alex Ferguson took Olsen off the transfer list and he would stay at Old Trafford for two more years.
Through his later years at Old Trafford, Olsen had a difficult time adapting to the English game and saw his footballing development stagnate. He was selected for the Denmark team at the Euro 1988, but did not play any games at the tournament.
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