Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won the Norwegian league title in his first year of management at the club he used to play for. Molde FK are a 100 year old Norwegian club that most of you probably hadn’t heard of until they sold us a 23-year-old Solskjaer in 1996. He had scored 31 goals in 38 games and had attracted interest from a few clubs across Europe. Åge Hareide was the manager at the time and offered the Norwegian striker to his former club, Manchester City, as well as Everton, for £1.2m. They both failed to take a punt on him.
United put in a bid of £1.5m during Euro 96, a record transfer fee for a Norwegian club at the time, which was duly accepted. Solskjaer was a Manchester United player. He went on to play 366 games for us, scoring 126 goals, winning six league titles, 2 FA Cups and most notably, scoring the winning goal in the 1999 European Cup final.
Upon retiring, Solskjaer was put in charge of the United Reserves. In the two and a half years he spent in post he saw our lads crowned champions of England, champions of the northern league, as well as winning the Manchester and Lancashire Senior Cups. It was during this stint that he was offered the job of managing the Norwegian national team, replacing his former Molde boss, Hareide, which he turned down to stay at United.
When an offer came in to return to Molde, Solskjaer couldn’t resist and no United fan could begrudge him taking up that opportunity, as much as we wanted him to stay.
Before tonight, Molde had never won the Tippeligaen and last season finished 11th out of 16, some 28 points behind champions Rosenburg. Solskjaer has transformed the club, taking them 8 points clear of any other club tonight to win the league with two games to go.
Molde drew with 2-2 with Strømsgodset this evening, with former United player Magnus Wolff Eikrem scoring one of the goals. Eikrem, who was born in Molde and attended Solskjaer’s soccer schools as a boy, has had a great first season with Norwegian club and helped significantly in their title push. To stop Molde winning the title today, Rosenborg had to beat Brann, but after going 3-0 down after 19 minutes, this was never likely. They lost 6-3, confirming Molde as champions.
This of course will lead to people calling Solskjaer back to United, or at least to clubs in the Premiership, but I’d like to think he would be more sensible than that. He is only 38-years-old and should be in no rush to take on a massive job before he is ready. Not only champions, Molde now have the opportunity to play in the Champions League, joining the competition at the second qualifying round next season. How incredible would it be for him to take this small Norwegian club, who have played such an important role in his career, to the ultimate competition. It would be a dream for him to return to United one day but it would be better for us just to celebrate his current success and see what the future brings.
A massive congratulations to Ole, Eikrem, former United coaches Mark Dempsey and Richard Hartis, and the team.
And Solksjaer has won it!