If I said the phrase ‘baby-faced assassin’ to any football fan on the street, most would know who I was talking about. If they didn’t, I could give them another clue to this players true identity; he played 366 times for Manchester United scoring 126 goals, a lot of them from substitute? If they didn’t know then, I would sell all of my worldly possessions and move to Libya to become their new leader.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is one of the most deadly strikers the Premier League has ever encountered, a player that became legend by what he managed to achieve at one of English football’s top teams being deployed as a ‘super-sub’ who had a knack of scoring goals. I can’t remember too many other players who became legend by being a regular sub, which is a testament to what a special character and talent Solskjær is and was.
Solskjær moved to United on the back of a highly successful season for the Norwegian club he now manages, Molde FK, where he scored 31 goals in 38 games. He was actually offered around the houses before getting his move to Manchester United in 1996, both Manchester City and Everton turned down the chance to sign him before Manchester United paid £1.5m for his services. He always stayed loyal to Manchester United despite the club accepting an offer from Spurs for him in 1998 where he would have become their number one striker, but he seemed intent on doing something special with Manchester United.
He scored in one of the best games of football that I ever witnessed as a football fan, the 1999 Champions League final win for Manchester United against Bayern Munich. It is a memory that will live on forever for many football fans, not just Manchester United fans and this is one of the key points about Solskjær. I am pretty sure the majority of fans would say positive things about Solskjær if asked, you are always going to get people who just hate United and any player associated with them, but Solskjær was viewed as one of the gentlemen of football. He was always humble about his performances and never wanted to take individual credit, he was a real team player that never moaned and was a player that both United and the Premier League were lucky to have. He’s even been knighted in Norway as well collecting a few other awards to recognise his achievements.
Now living back in Norway and managing his previous club Molde FK, Solskjær has had a steady induction in to coaching from the best. Alex Ferguson gave Solskjær the Manchester United job after he impressed coaching the first team strikers. Solskjær said yes to the role in a heart beat and had some good successes in a short space of time winning both the Lancashire Senior Cup and the Manchester Senior Cup, as well as the Premier League Reserve League and also the north section of the same competition before leaving to take up his first full time managerial post.
Despite a shaky opening game, his success has continued with Molde FK who currently sit top of the Tippeligaen (Norway league) in their centenary year, 8 points ahead of second place Tromsø with 3 games to go – a scenario his years at Manchester United would have more than prepared him for. For Solskjaer the move back to Norway was an easy one, he needed more experience and also had family commitments which mean the move home suited him perfectly. He wanted to learn his trade and earn his shot at a top European job further down the line and it looks as though his decision to take the Molde job will pay off as he has emerged as one of the most exciting coaches in the game today.
Fergie gave his blessing to the move saying “Once he gets experience of managing a club in its own right who knows where it will take him?” and on results so fat it seems he is destined for the very top. Everything about his current managerial role echoes of the type of man he is, his actions whilst in charge of Molde have been classy, as he has impressed in front of the media and has been gracious in the face of defeat.
Already talk has started about him returning to these shores with his name being linked with the vacancy at Portsmouth and the soon to be vacant post at Blackburn, maybe now even Leicester. He is still mentioned by football fans around the country and only yesterday Ferguson compared his latest great find, Javier Hernandez, to Solskjær…high praise indeed for the young Mexican. Solskjær has already admitted he wants to manage Manchester United one day but also said “to manage Man United, you need to go somewhere else and learn your trade so 15, 20 years from now maybe” – a very sensible sentiment.
For me, Solskjær should stay and learn in Norway, he is out of the media spot light and able to concentrate on developing as a manager without the pressures that managers who dine on Europe’s top table face. If his loyalty to Manchester United is anything to go by, he won’t be happy doing half a job at Molde. I truly hope to see him back in the English game, but he is the type of guy you don’t want to see fail, so I just hope Solskjær bides his time, as there is little argument that soon his time to take the Premier League by storm again will come.
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