The playing career of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was highly successful, albeit after a slow start. For five years he played in the lowly Norwegian leagues for Clausenengen, until close to his 22ndbirthday. At that time, just prior to the start of 1995, he got the big move, which he waited patiently for, to Molde.
In his first season with them, Solskjaer scored freely. He developed a good strike partnership with Arild Stavrum. Between them, they scored 36 Tippeligaen goals, 20 of which were Solskjaer’s. The pair’s good form helped their team finish second on their return to the top – tier of Norwegian football. Although unable to break Rosenberg’s dominance in Norway, Molde performed well.
Midway through his second season with the club, Solskjaer had continued to score prolifically to earn a move to Manchester United. They were the team with which he played for 11 years. Over the course of that time, he also consistently represented Norway. In 67 international appearances, Solskjaer scored 23 goals. None of those happened at a major international tournament but he did make an impact on the highest stage of club football.
In the 1999 UEFA Champions League final, Solskjaer scored the winning goal for Manchester United as they dramatically beat Bayern Munich 2 – 1 at Barcelona’s Nou Camp. It was the highlight of his career and typified his reliability for scoring important goals as a substitute. The positive impact which Solskjaer was able to make on games enabled him to remain an important striker to Sir Alex Ferguson all the way through to his retirement from playing in 2007.
It was a year during which he won his sixth English Premier League title. In addition to those, as a Manchester United player, Solskjaer also won two F.A Cups and the Intercontinental Cup once. As a successful career as a player ended, he took his first steps into management. For three years, he took charge of Manchester United’s reserves. The good work which Solskjaer undertook with them was noticed by people back in his homeland because he was offered the manager’s position at Molde which he accepted.
It took a bit of time for him to get his new team playing well. A third of the way through the 2011 season, Molde were fifth but under Solskjaer’s guidance, they soon improved their position, as he led them to a first Tippeligaen title. A successful defence took place. For a third consecutive season, Solskjaer delivered a trophy to the supporters of Molde, as they won the Norwegian Cup for only the third time in the club’s history. They did so by beating Rosenberg 4 – 2 in the final. It was a game in which one of Solskjaer’s substitutes, Tommy Hoiland, scored.
Such success has eluded him since 2013. A brief, nine – month, stint as Cardiff City manager descended into a bit of a shambles. In Solskjaer’s short reign, he signed 18 players. Most of those, including Mats Moller Daehli, Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Jo Inge Berget, failed to establish themselves either at Cardiff City or in English football generally. After relegation from the English Premier League, Solskjaer tried to improve his team for the 2014 – 2015 Championship season. He brought in players such as Federico Macheda and Fabio da Silva from his old club, Manchester United, but did not get the chance to manage them for long because he was sacked.
To remain involved in football, Solskjaer took the job of managing Clausenengen’s under – 19’s for a year. He did not have to wait long for a return to Molde. They have been Rosenberg’s closest challengers in Norway since Solskjaer resumed his role as their manager. In both 2017 & 2018 Molde finished second, earning praise for their performances, particularly against Rosenberg in the process. Among Solskjaer’s other notable achievements with the club is winning a UEFA Europa League group which featured Ajax, Celtic and Fenerbache.
He has striven to emulate his achievements as a player in management but faces a new challenge as the caretaker manager of Manchester United. Their dishevelled team need a saviour. That was the role which Solskjaer often cast himself in on the pitch as a player. He needs to work a different kind of magic to resuscitate and breathe life into the season of Manchester United. A special striker has returned to the club to replace the self – anointed special one.