Man Utd Focus – Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last night secured a second consecutive league title with Norwegian side Molde, the club from which he joined Manchester United in 1996, and then returned to as manager two years ago. Solskjaer was a huge favourite at Old Trafford during his time there, but does he have what it takes to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson when the Scot finally takes his leave of the game?

Whoever replaces Ferguson will have a mammoth task on their hands, not only within the club and with supporters, but considering the size and placing of United as one of the world’s most famous sports teams. The position will also surely be a much sought-after, not to mention rare, opportunity amongst managers from across the footballing landscape.

Solskjaer however is firmly embedded in the history of Manchester United, with his last-gasp winner in the Champions League final of 1999’s treble season. If the next manager requires reverence, the box is ticked.

Yet legendary status as a player will be nowhere near enough for Ferguson’s eventual successor. In this respect, Solskjaer has made a very strong start to any claim being staked for eventually managing the club where he spent over 14 years. He took over at Molde at the start of their centenary season, with the club yet to win a league championship. Solskjaer has now guided them to back-to-back titles in a division that has been dominated by Rosenborg, who won the league 17 times between 1990 and 2010.

The former striker was given the opportunity to start his coaching career at United following his retirement from playing, and successfully managed the reserve team for two and a half years, winning the Premier Reserve League and two knockout competitions. The time spent working with and playing under Ferguson was put to good use, with Solskjaer admitting to taking notes of things his mentor said to his players along with tactical discussions, and even how he himself reacted to certain situations, such as an earful from Roy Keane or missing a chance in a game.

The Norwegian is well aware that he must be his own man however, and cannot simply replicate Ferguson and his methods: “He’s got a few traits that suit me but others that don’t.” One characteristic that they do share is their desire for continued success, with Solskjaer stating after Molde’s first title victory: “Many teams have won the league title once and then collapsed. We have no plans of following that road. We want to develop and win more championships.”

This ambition is crucial at a club like United, as is the ability to handle and work with big-name players. Solskjaer has played alongside the likes of highly talented footballers such as Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, to name but a few, witnessing firsthand how Ferguson dealt with all of these often complex personalities.

The 39-year-old’s exploits since flying the Old Trafford nest have been impressive, and seen him linked with a number of Premier League clubs. He is currently too young and inexperienced to be in charge at United, but with Ferguson claiming he is “too old to retire“, it could be the case that Solskjaer returns to England under the wing of his former boss in a bid for student to become master.

Solskjaer has a huge appetite for the game, shown by his dedication to return from injuries suffered during his time at Old Trafford, along with his immediate progression to management. He has studied the game in great depth throughout his career, and has a determination to win and prove doubters wrong. He also possesses a ruthless streak, saying after last season’s triumph that one or two players “think they’re big-time Charlies. So it’ll be thanks and goodbye.” All of these attributes would be necessary to take on one of the biggest jobs in football.

Sir Alex Ferguson once described Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United’s “man of destiny“. He certainly has a number of the qualities required to turn this statement into something even more prophetic in the future.

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