Solskjaer could redefine managerial career at United


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been sworn in as the new Manchester United manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho on Tuesday.

The Norwegian spent 11 years at Old Trafford, scoring one of the club’s most famous goals when he netted the winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, the year United completed the treble.

The move to bring in their former striker could be seen as an attempt to curry favour with the disgruntled United faithful who have watched their club flounder this campaign and need a feel-good moment heading into a pivotal six months.

With that being said, Solskjaer’s credentials thus far do not match that of a credible candidate for the role long-term. But the next six months could redefine his reputation as a manager.

After retiring in 2007 the former Cardiff City manager, who will return to his former club this weekend for his first game as interim boss of the Red Devils, spent time under Sir Alex Ferguson as part of his coaching staff before taking up the reins at Molde.

During his initial three year spell Solskjaer oversaw 125 games, winning back-to-back Tippeligaen titles in 2011 and 2012. He would also guide the Norway outfit to the Norwegian football cup in 2013.

His reputation would become bruised when he made his first move into English football management when he took over Cardiff.

Solskjaer would only win nine games during his eight month spell in Wales as the Bluebirds were relegated to the Championship.

Solskjaer scored the winning goal in Man United’s 2-1 Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich in 1999 (photo: BBC).

Before being confirmed as United’s caretaker manager the six-time Premier League winner returned to Molde for a second spell. The 45-year-old has won 55.9% of his games with the Scandinavian side, slightly bettering the 55.2% win percentage he had during his first spell. However, Molde are yet to lift a trophy since his return.

A successful six months at United could not only see Solskjaer become a popular man for vacancies upcoming once the season is over, but could see him in the frame to take the job at Old Trafford on a permanent basis.

Mourinho left the club with them sixth in the Premier League, 11 points off the top four and a staggering 19 points off Liverpool at the summit.

A kind run of fixtures await United. Their clash against Cardiff on Saturday is followed by games with: Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Reading in the FA Cup before a match away at Tottenham in mid-January.

12 points and a FA Cup victory would be perfect foil for Solskjaer to go into a massive game where he’ll have to match wits with another potential candidate in Pochettino.

Reports suggest that United can make their former forward the full-time boss for a compensation fee of around £7.2 million, an option which would be much cheaper than the £40 million required to possibly prise Mauricio Pochettino away from Tottenham Hotspur. Should all go well, it may be an offer too tough to pass up for Ed Woodward.

A critical Februay and March follow with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City all on the league calendar, with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in between.

The essence of most of these games will be if they are not securing positive results, their style of play must at least resemble one from the Ferguson glory days.

Solskjaer’s Molde scored 63 goals this season – the most in the division, their penchant for goals evident as is their flurry for high-scoring entertaining games. The Norway club scored at least two goals in each of their last five games.

The caretaker manager will also have eyes on an April 27 clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford. A clash which will be huge if United have any chance of making the Champions League places.

United fans, players and board members alike were frustrated at the often defensive approach deployed from Mourinho. However, even that approach eventually began to fade also as evidence by United’s 29 goals conceded, more than Premier League strugglers Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United, to name just three.

Alexis Sanchez has been just one of several transfers that flopped under Mourinho (photo:

There is more than statistics at play with this appointment you feel. United have gone to this well before: bringing in a former player on a temporary basis to give the fans something to cheer.

After David Moyes was let go in April 2014, Ryan Giggs was brought in for the final four games giving United renewed hope following a highly frustrating and sometimes bizarre season.

The club has moved in the same direction once more and the feel-good factor will provide Solskjaer with much needed time to get his feet under the table and implement his ideas.

There are also reports that the new caretaker manager will be given around £50 million to add quality once the January transfer window opens. Whether any signings made will be those truly picked by the manager remain to be seen, but the tentative sum could perhaps suggest it is a test of how the former Cardiff boss will spend.

Spent wisely, it could further convince the United hierarchy that their former player has the credentials to become their future manager. While his most recent employers do not boast the same financial muscle that United do, Solskjaer has been given funds while he was at Cardiff.

During his eight month spell he was given two transfer windows and a total of £21.68 million was spent at the Bluebirds during his tenure. Only Bruno Ecuele Manga, Sean Morrison and Anthony Pilkington remain on the team of the 17 players brought in on a permanent deal under the Norwegian.

His predecessor often made headlines for not being backed in the transfer market. However, there were equally legitimate concerns about how Mourinho had spent the money that was afforded to him with the squad looking no better than when he found it in transition in 2016.

Should Solskjaer prove to be astute in the market – and he will have to be with a sum of £50 million, peanuts by today’s footballing economics, then it may also lay to rest any concerns of transfer windows of the past.

Perhaps Solskjaer is not the ideal replacement for Jose Mourinho and a Manchester United club in turmoil. However, by the time his caretaker role is completed he may have demonstrated that he is more than an ideal candidate to replace ‘The Special One’ and change perceptions about him as a manager.


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