As Solskjaer wins another title in Norway, we reveal the secrets to his success… but could he work as a Premier League boss
16:02 GMT, 16 November 2012
In England, November is the time of year when football clubs who have had a below par start begin to think about swinging the axe on their manager.
In Norway, or in Molde to be precise, it’s starting to become a month to celebrate after the Tippeligaen side secured back-to-back league titles on Sunday.
Given the history of the club it is a huge achievement and pulling the strings as manager is none other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
New dawn: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is enjoying instant success in his managerial career at Molde
Matt Lawton: My memories of Ole
He will always, in my mind, be
responsible for the biggest production nightmare in the history of
sports journalism. A player who succeeded in turning a few journalistic
brains to mush in newspaper offices across London as well as in
Barcelona on that extraordinary night in 1999.
I was there as the
Manchester correspondent for my newspaper that night and the ‘baby-faced
assassin’, as my colleague Steve Millar famously called him, was not a
player who took much interest in the media. He was always polite but
very quiet, which made him the perfect professional in the eyes of Sir
To his credit, the fame and the adulation never changed
him. He remained a model pro and I’m sure that is one reason why
Ferguson invited him to join the coaching staff when he finally called
time on a distinguished playing career.
The former Manchester United striker
has been a revelation back in his native land since taking over at the
start of last year with the successive top flight championships – the
first two in the club’s 101 year history.
has hardly been a breeding ground for producing Europe’s finest
managers in years gone by (just ask any Wimbledon fan about Egil Olsen)
but the 'baby-faced assassin's' impressive track record is causing a few
clubs in England to take a keen interest.
Aston Villa even made an approach to take him to Villa Park before appointing Paul Lambert last summer, but the 39-year-old declined on the basis of keeping a settled family back in Molde.
Injury forced Solskjaer to quit playing in 2008 and prior to his current post he had only spent two years managing Manchester United’s reserve side – so what is the secret to his instant success
European adventure: Solskjaer celebrates a goal in this year's Europa League clash against Stuttgart
It can’t all be down to playing under Sir Alex Ferguson for 10 years at United (who he joined from Molde in 1996) as we have seen a few former Red Devils stars struggle to make the conversion from a strong playing career into management.
Solskjaer does admit to pinching a few techniques from the 70-year-old, who he still refers to as boss, including inspiring team-talks and guiding the players on how to eat and dress.
However the managerial brain has always seemed to be inside the former Norway international. He’s been interested in coaching since the age of 10 when he guided other kids in the streets of Kristiansund and revealed in an interview with Sportsmail last year he always took notes while at Old Trafford.
Baby-faced Assassin: Solskjaer celebrates his most famous goal for Manchester United – the injury-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final (below) against Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp
Solskjaer said: ‘That manager was always in me. I was at a stage when I wrote what we did in every single training session and then there was a period in my career when I wrote a mental diary as well.
‘It was quite interesting because I struggled with low confidence at times and I used to write about how I reacted mentally to Roy Keane giving me a b******ing, for example, or missing a chance. I was more alert to how I was thinking.
Molde: not something you'd find on an old dinner plate but a successful Norwegian football club…
Since promotion to the top flight in
1974, Molde have established themselves as one of Norway’s most
respected clubs – although they have been relegated five times since
The recent back-to-back titles may be the first in the club’s
history but they’ve been mighty close before having been runners-up on
Do they have experience of playing in European competition
football comes round often in the form of the Europa League, with the
club featuring in the group stage this term, but they have made a sole
Champions League appearance. Back in 1999 they finished bottom of a
group containing Real Madrid, Porto and Olympiakos.
Where do they play
The Aker Stadion in Molde holds just under 12,000 and is an all-seater stadium that was opened in 1998.
Who’s the club captain
37-years-old, Daniel Hestad played with Solskjaer at Molde in the
mid-1990s and has experienced five of the club’s runners-up campaigns.
Save for a two-year spell at Heerenveen between 2003 and 2005, the
midfielder has been at Molde since 1993 and has eight caps for Norway.
Who’s Ole's star man
transfer business look up to scratch too as his second signing at the
club was striker Davy Angan, who has since scored 24 goals in 54 league
‘Towards the end, it was a diary on what the manager was saying and the tactical meetings we had. Different kinds of notes. I still go back to them now but most of it’s in my head.’
It is little wonder Solskjaer’s managerial career has got off to a flying start with preparation like that. It’s rare to see a manager have all the power three in productive training, man management and tactical knowledge – but the Norwegian’s career notes suggest a willingness to learn and understand everything on the pitch and off it.
Even tactically Solskjaer is prepared to develop a number of theories. A 4-3-3 system that features rampaging full-backs is a weapon of choice, but he has experimented with a rigid three-pronged attack supported by three central midfielders…and again rampaging full-backs.
But he isn’t afraid to mix it up either and at times has deployed a 4-4-2 that relies on plenty of width from the full-backs and wingers, and features a forward behind the striker.
And that is not all down to inheriting a strong Molde team – on the contrary. Only a short lived but successful unbeaten eight-game spell under former Manchester City striker Uwe Rosler kept them in the top flight two years ago.
Solskjaer admits he has to do it his way but having only learnt from the best he can’t help but only practice the winning formula.
‘I look at that as the perfect way of running a club.’ he said. ‘In our little world, with different facilities and resources, you have to make it into a mini Manchester United. How the gaffer runs it is a template for everyone. If it’s good enough for United, it’s definitely good enough for Molde.’
So is he good enough for the Premier League Two historic league titles in as many years suggest he deserves a chance and his popularity in England would give him an edge in the running for vacant posts.
It seems inevitable Solskjaer will return to England at some point but judging by his attention to detail, any strings attached like interfering owners or directors of football seem more likely to push him away.
Playing a vital supporting role in his two years at Molde have been his backroom staff which includes former United coach, Mark Dempsey.
It’s another unknown quantity to add to the mix. If he failed to convince the majority of his winning team to join him at a new club, would he struggle to replicate the same relative success
Tactical brain: Solskjaer, who was a canny striker, oversees his team's preparations on the training pitch
The natural talent for management appears to be there – the trophies confirm that. Solskajer admits to having no hesitation in replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at United once the Scot retires but until he has experience in one of Europe’s biggest leagues, he would be a gamble for any Premier League team.
Molde lack the resources to sustain a credible European challenge until when the trophies are handed out in May, so the Norwegian has already arguably hit the ceiling in Norway.
Solskjaer’s commitment to his family may mean he opts for another year practicing his managerial trade in Norway but he is an ambitious man and November is a month where one or two Premier League clubs advertise a vacancy and make a few phone calls.
Chris Wheeler: Solskjaer is the Fergie of the Fjords
/11/16/article-2234013-022BD43B000004B0-866_306x438.jpg” width=”306″ height=”438″ alt=”Learning from the best: Solskjaer with his long-time boss and mentor at United, Sir Alex Ferguson” class=”blkBorder” />
Learning from the best: Solskjaer with his long-time boss and mentor at United, Sir Alex Ferguson
‘I know for a
fact that one or two of these players won’t be as good next year. They
think they’re Big-time Charlies. So it’ll be thanks and goodbye.’
is that ruthlessness and ultra-professionalism that made Solskjaer such a
great player and now one of the most promising young coaches in Europe.
wonder the man who has turned down Blackburn and Bolton in recent weeks
dreams of returning to Old Trafford as manager one day.
moment he went back to Molde, he changed the philosophy of the whole
club. The players were made to wear suits and conform to a stricter
routine and diet. Rather than use ice baths, he made them climb down the
rocks behind the club’s Aker Stadion and bathe in the Fannefjord.
look at United as the perfect way of running a club,’ he said. ‘If it’s
good enough for United, it’s definitely good enough for Molde.’
as young as 10-years-old, Solskjaer was displaying a coach’s mentality,
coaching the other kids in the streets of his hometown of Kristiansund
and working on team selections.
Years later, he would take notes on
United’s sessions and even kept a diary of his own thoughts and
insecurities as a player. He still refers to them now.
Sat on the
bench behind Ferguson on so many occasions, United’s superbsub learned
to analyse the game and see it through his manager’s eyes.
Solskjaer maximise the impact he could have on games, and United fans
loved him for it long before that unforgettable night in Barcelona in
‘I never had that sulk,’ he said. ‘I always felt privileged
just sitting behind the manager because I had an advantage of watching
the game and thinking tactically.’
Most importantly of all, Solskjaer
is his own man. For all that he has gleaned from United and Ferguson,
he is determined to do things his way.
‘I can’t compromise and be
someone else,’ he said. ‘When I was a player I could never be Giggs,
Scholes, Beckham, Cantona or Keane. It’s the same with the gaffer. He’s
got a few traits that suit me but others that don’t. I try to make that
into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the manager.’
CLICK HERE TO READ CHRIS WHEELER'S BRILLIANT INTERVIEW WITH SOLSKJAER AFTER THEIR MEETING IN NORWAY LAST YEAR