It is indisputable that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stock as a young manager is rising rapidly.
He has already been linked with managerial positions at several English clubs, including Bolton, Aston Villa and Blackburn, but for reasons known only to him, the United legend eventually turned them down and he returned to his hometown club, Molde FK.
From that moment, it was inevitable that Solskjaer would secure a second consecutive Norwegian title for the modest fjord-side club, and for one simple reason—the man is a winner.
He is young and comparatively inexperienced when measured against other candidates for the job, but conversely Solskjaer has many attributes that ultimately eclipse these concerns.
As a player Solskjaer has seen it all.
That moment eternally etched in all our minds; the last minute winning goal at Camp Nou in 1999—knees sliding on the turf, fists clenched, and the ecstatic face was just the beginning.
Solskjaer knew very early on in his playing career that he wanted to manage, and he made this steadfast desire known to the ultimate mentor Sir Alex Ferguson. He began to learn from the master, absorbing everything he could.
His final playing contract, signed in 2006, contained a provision to allow him to work toward his coaching badges, and these were achieved quickly.
The determined Norwegian had a plan.
Solskjaer’s mantra echoes the clear managerial vision of Sir Alex Ferguson. In words that you could quite easily believe were uttered by the single-minded, great Scotsman himself, Solskjaer said (via guardian.co.uk):
It’s not about what club you find, it’s about finding leadership in that club that you can work with and trust. Then you have a good foundation.
His journey with Molde has similarities with Ferguson’s early career with Aberdeen.
Challenged with the task of breaking the strangle-hold of the Old-Firm domination of Scottish football, Ferguson brought in players that were mentally strong. Solskjaer brought success to Molde in much the same way.
“There are so many talents around,” Solskjaer said, “But when they have character, hunger, the motivation to be better all the time, to improve, that’s the key.”
When discussing Solskjaer as a possible successor to Sir Alex, age and experience seem to be concerning factors for many fans.
Yet his competitors for the position were all young when they accepted their first posts as managers and subsequently grew into successes.
Solskjaer is currently 39. At the same age Moyes was in charge of Everton, Guardiola of Barcelona and Mourinho of Porto.
Interestingly, Solskjaer’s career path is most parallel to Pep Guardiola’s. After starting his managerial journey with Barcelona B, Guardiola eventually took the helm of the first-team and never looked back.
Additionally, Solskjaer has already worked with some top players and was instrumental in the development of Gerard Pique, Giuseppe Rossi, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck.
In each of his five years in management, Solskjaer has never failed to win at least one trophy.
Beginning with his stewardship of United Reserves, he led the side to silverware in Lancashire Senior Cup twice, the Manchester Senior Cup three times and the Reserves league title once.
In 2011 Solskjaer accepted a four-year contract to manage Molde. At his first attempt he drove the fjord-side club to its first ever Norwegian league title in the club’s 100-year history.
His rapid rise led to many job offers in England, but he decided to remain with Molde and in his second season as manager, he again guided the side to another league title.
The transition from Sir Alex to another has to be as seamless as possible, and Solskjaer’s potential introduction can offer this.
He spent over 14 years at old Trafford as player, coach and reserve team manager, and he can integrate more efficiently than any other could.
He knows the club inside out, and, perhaps most importantly, he is United through and through.
It's always this thing about being the big brother and the little brother coming to try to overtake the big brother. That always happens in families and in clubs—the young player hoping to take the old player's position—and City are hoping to overtake United. I don't think they'll ever be able to.
Manchester United’s most successful periods have enjoyed settled management.
Sir Alex has been in power for 26 glorious years and Sir Matt Busby’s first period at the club lasted 24 years. With the correct support, Solskjaer can emulate this longevity.
It is unlikely that Mourinho or Guardiola would stretch to periods of such length. Mourinho has jumped from club to club (his confrontational style damaging any chance of long-term relationships) and Guardiola felt he needed a rest after four years at Barcelona.
Moyes is settled in the North-West and could realistically stay for years if successful. However, only Solskjaer can boast a family-like bond with United that’s as unbreakable as that of a father and son.
Solskjaer’s leadership is in big demand because there’s something special about the focused Norwegian. You have a feeling that everything he touches will turn to gold.
All great managers in whatever walk of life have a commanding presence, and Norwegian TV Reporter, Lars Sivertsen had this to say about the way Ole conveys himself (via guardian.co.uk):
He has a really strange aura. He is in charge of everything in the room. Without exerting authority he can achieve the desired effect by a look.
Solskjaer already commands such impressive and respectful comments, loaded with admiration, despite a fledgling managerial career.
With Solskjaer, the headline star of the pinnacle on-field moment in Manchester United’s history, they broke the mould.
Could it be written in the stars that he is the man to succeed the most successful manager in English football history and take the reins at the biggest football club in the world? Is it his destiny?
Of course, installing Solskjaer is a gamble. But succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson is inevitably a gargantuan task and any incoming manager may struggle to imitate his spectacular success.
One thing is for sure, though—Ole will have the full support of the fans, for their ears will forever ring with those immortal words:
Header by Yorke, in towards Sheringham ... AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT!
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