Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has gone from strength to strength since retiring from playing football, firstly when in charge of our Reserve team and then as manager of Molde. The Norwegian side had never won the league before his appointment, a stretch going back 100 years, but they won it in both of his first two seasons at the club. At the end of his third season, in November, he won the Norwegian Cup.
It is no surprise that Solskjaer has gone on to make a success of his managerial career as, by all accounts, he was a great student of the game when he was still playing. He used to take down notes after every training session with thoughts of a future career in management already on his mind. Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he kept Solskjaer on the bench because he was such a great reader of the game that he could be brought on with ten minutes to go and expose the flaws he had witnessed from the sidelines.
United fans will dream that one day Solskjaer, our hero, will return to Old Trafford as manager. However, before that’s possible, he has to have a bit of Premier League experience.
It is likely that Solskjaer has been offered the same advice that Sir Alex Ferguson has offered others he is close to. In his autobiography, he reflected on a conversation he had with his former number two, Steve McClaren, before he went in to management.
What I told Steve was: you should make sure you get the right club, the right chairman. Essential. Always.
Aston Villa were keen to appoint Solskjaer as manager but the timing wasn’t right with the commitments he had in Norway. He reportedly also didn’t feel that the right structures were in place for him to make a success of his time there either.
When he was first linked to the job at Cardiff, working for Vincent Tan, you presumed he would have more sense. This is an owner who changed the club’s colours from blue to red, who storms the dressing room to have a dispute with players over bonuses, who tells the manager he wants the players to be instructed to shoot from the half-way line more often, who is keen to sign players with the number 8 in their birthdays because that number is lucky in Malaysian communities, who sacked their head of recruitment and replaced him with a 23-year-old who had been at the club on work experience and was friends with his son (before leaving the club after it was revealed he didn’t have and couldn’t obtain a work visa), who joined in the booing of the team after they threw away a 2-0 lead late on, and who the fans protest against on a weekly basis, amongst other things.
Solskjaer’s former international team mate, Jan Aage Fjortoft, took to Twitter to dispel rumours of the Cardiff job: “I have been told that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘will be picking an owner, not a club’.”
This afternoon, after attending Cardiff’s defeat at the Emirates yesterday with Tan, Solskjaer was named their manager. “It’s a fantastic challenge for me,” he said. “Cardiff City are ready to take the next step up, I hope I can help them. I’ve always dreamt of being a manager in the Premier League and I’m delighted to get the opportunity. I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead. I’m going to bring my energy and enthusiasm to the club.”
Solskjaer then confirmed that Ferguson’s hadn’t instructed him to turn down the Cardiff job, but had given him some advice. “He has wished me the best and given me some good advice as he always does,” said Solskjaer. “I had a good conversation with him. It it absolute nonsense [that he told me to turn down Cardiff].”
I’m just so desperate for Solskjaer to come good and have a great career, that I can’t help but feel gutted he’s taken on this position. Maybe he believes that Premier League jobs are hard to come by and he can’t afford to let this opportunity with Cardiff to pass him by. He might be right, but at the rate Premier League managers get sacked, he surely could have attracted a better club than this. Tony Pulis, Paolo Di Canio, Ian Holloway, Martin Jol, Steve Clarke, Andre Villas-Boas and Malky Mackay have all lost their jobs at Premier League clubs since May, so there’s a regular opening in this country. But maybe he is thinking that this situation is win-win for him, as if he fails then he will be forgiven, as nowhere could do a good job under Tan, and if he succeeds, then his stock rises all the more, for doing a good job with a ridiculous owner.
Still, whatever reservations we may have over him taking this position, it’s undeniable that it’s great to have him in the Premier League, the sixth former red from Ferguson’s team to do so, and his return to Old Trafford with Cardiff in a few weeks will be special for us all.