With a job lined up as manager of his former club, Norwegian outfit Molde FK, certain factions have speculated that the move will be temporary as he garners experience to then eventually take up the vast reins bestowed by Sir Alex Ferguson. Whatever the outcome it’s hard not to wish him well, being one of the game’s more popular figures.
Solskjaer’s ascension to legendary status has been of fairytale proportions. Acquired in 1996 from Molde, for the derisory sum of £1.5 million, Ferguson thought he was buying a player who would act as back-up for the desired Alan Shearer. However, the England hit man opted to join Newcastle United, meaning Solskjaer was boosted from the periphery to first team.
And he didn’t disappoint. Netting a poacher’s effort just six minutes into his debut, the player dubbed the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ (due to his youthful looks) had arrived. Bagging 18 goals in his first season, United hoisted the Premiership trophy and Solskjaer’s name rang out of the Stretford End.
Often named as substitute, in the pecking order behind Eric Cantona, Andy Cole then Dwight Yorke, the Norwegian conversely saw it as a positive, monitoring the game like a hawk as to exploit any gaps. He did this with unrivalled quality when United played Nottingham Forest in the treble-winning season of 1998-99.
At 4-1 up, Ferguson replaced Yorke with the diminutive Norwegian, advising him to ‘play conservatively’. But Solskjaer took matters into his own hands and rifled in four goals in the last ten minutes (a still-unbroken record) to hand United a resounding 8-1 victory. This feat, plus several others (admittedly, not as extraordinary), earned him the moniker ‘Super Sub’, thus setting the precedent for future strikers.
But the defining moment of his prolific career came in Barcelona on May 26, 1999. United, 1-0 down against German giants Bayern Munich, equalised with seconds to spare through Teddy Sheringham. Into injury time and Solskjaer’s been on the field just under ten minutes.
David Beckham swings in a corner from the right and, amongst panic-stricken Bayern defenders, Solskjaer lurks at the back post and optimistically sticks out a foot as the ball flies towards him. It sails past Oliver Kahn. It’s the dying seconds of one of the most hard-fought finals and the man purchased for less than £2 million has just won the greatest prize in football for Manchester United.
His name chanted eternally by the United faithful (‘You are my Solskjaer, my only Solskjaer’ being a personal favourite, to the tune of ‘You are my sunshine’), it is with a heavy heart that we bid him farewell. For how long remains to be seen.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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