Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Manchester United's best bargain signing?

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Football News

Who could ever forget the last-minute winner that Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in 1999.

That night he wrote himself into Manchester United folklore and, fittingly, enjoys legendary status at the club.

Here's a look at the career of the man who defined the term 'super-sub'.

Solskjaer began his career in his homeland of Norway with Clausenegen, a small club situated in his birthplace of Kristiansund in 1990. He spent four years with his hometown club averaging more than a goal a game before joining Norwegian Premier League side Molde FK in 1995.

Solskjaer picked up right where he left off with his old club and in his one and only season with Molde; he scored 31 goals in 38 matches which helped the striker gain the attention of bigger clubs around Europe.

English Premier League sides Manchester City and Everton were both interested in Solskjaer but due to his ability being virtually unknown outside his homeland, neither club were willing to take a risk on him.

German side Hamburg were also keen on signing the forward; however, following Euro '96 Solskjaer signed for English league champions Manchester United for a fee of just £1.5m.

United had previously been in the hunt for the high-profile Blackburn and England striker Alan Shearer. However he signed for hometown club Newcastle United for a then world record fee of £15m.

Solskjaer was joined by fellow countryman Ronny Johnsen, who also signed for United in the summer of '96. The striker was a surprise signing and many felt he would be used as back-up for Eric Cantona and Andy Cole, who had led the line for the champions the previous season.

The Norwegian striker made the most auspicious start possible to his career at Old Trafford. Coming on as a substitute and within six minutes of his debut, he scored his first goal in English football against Blackburn, just a small sign of things to come.

As the goals kept on coming, Solskjaer earned himself the nickname "Baby-faced Assassin" and was called a "super-sub" by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The striker completed his first season in English football with 18 league goals and was no doubt the find of the 1996/97 Premier League campaign; he also picked up his first league medal with United that season.

Solskjaer wasn't quite as successful in his second season, scoring just nine goals in 30 games as United missed out on the Premier League title to Arsenal. Solskjaer was named in the Norway squad for the 1998 World Cup, he failed to score but Norway finished second in Group A and also defeated Brazil 2-1 to progress to the round of 16 before being eliminated by Italy following a 1-0 defeat.

Solskjaer was hot property in the transfer market that summer, the striker was on the verge of joining Tottenham Hotspur but the deal fell through which would ultimately benefit United in the near future.

In a bid to complete the treble (Premier League, F.A. Cup and Champions League) Alex Ferguson made three major signings, Jaap Stam, Jesper Blomqvist and Dwight Yorke for a then-club record fee of around £12m.

The club's attacking prowess at the time matched any team in the world and due to the form of Andy Cole and Yorke up front, both Solskjaer and fellow striker Teddy Sheringham had to be content with watching from the bench for much of the 1998/99 season.

The Norwegian striker still managed to play a part in 37 games and scored 18 goals including four against Nottingham Forest in an 8-1 thrashing, typically after coming on as a substitute after Cole and Yorke had scored two each.

However, arguably the crowning moment of Solskjaer's career was to come on May 26 1999.

United faced German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League final but the new Premier League and FA Cup winners began the match as underdogs and within five minutes were a goal down courtesy of a free-kick scored by Mario Basler.

The scoreline remained 1-0 to Bayern until stoppage time at the end of the game. Substitute Sheringham reacted quickest to Ryan Giggs' initial effort and with it United had finally got the better of Oliver Kahn in the Munich goal.

In the last minute of injury time, David Beckham's corner was crossed into the path of Sheringham before Solskjaer was able to steer the ball into the Bayern goal and with it, Manchester United were crowned the champions of Europe for the first time in over 30 years. The striker's place in the club's hall of fame was cemented forever thanks to that last gasp winning goal.

The following season, Solskjaer picked up his third Premier League medal with United, scoring 15 goals in all competitions including the title clinching goal against Southampton in a 3-1 win.

That summer, the striker competed in the Euro 2000 tournament with Norway, he scored four goals in qualifying but unfortunately Solskjaer and his country finished third in Group C behind Yugoslavia and Spain on goals scored.

The 2000/01 season was set to be a historic one for United as the club won the Premier League title for a third season in a row becoming the first side to achieve this honour, thanks in no small part to the Norwegian striker who scored 10 league goals for The Red Devils, many of them crucial.

In the summer of 2001 United made two high profile signings, firstly Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was bought from PSV Eindhoven for a fee of £19m breaking the club's transfer record.

It wasn't long before the club made another record signing, that being Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron who was signed for £28m from Italian side, Lazio.

Solskjaer and Van Nistelrooy formed a deadly partnership up front, which left both Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke on the bench. With Solskjaer now a key component of the United attack, he scored 25 goals in all competitions which was his best return for United since joining the club in 1996.

However even with Solskjaer and Van Nistelrooy scoring a total of 40 league goals between them, United were unable to win the Premier League for a fourth time in a row as Arsenal finished the season as champions.

The following season, Solskjaer scored his 100th goal for Manchester United on the opening day of the 2002/03 Premier League campaign in a 1-0 against West Brom at Old Trafford. Solskjaer's playing time up front was limited due to the form of both Van NIstelrooy and Paul Scholes in the United attack.

Solskjaer played the majority of the season on the right wing in the absence of David Beckham who had been injured for a number of months. The striker still managed to score 15 goals that season which helped United regain the league and with it Solskjaer picked up his fifth Premier League winners medal.

During the 2003/04 season, Solskjaer suffered a knee injury in a Champions League against Panathinaikos which restricted him to making less than 20 appearances that campaign. However he did play in the 2004 F.A. Cup final in which United won 3-0 against Millwall.

The striker was injured for the large majority of the next two seasons, leaving many fans to ponder whether or not they would see him in a United shirt again.

However Solskjaer finally returned to first team action at the beginning of the 2006/07 campaign and scored in the second game of the season in a 3-0 over Charlton Atheltic, his first goal since September 2003. He scored 11 goals during that campaign including winning strikes against Celtic in the Champions League and Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

He won his sixth and final Premier League winners medal with United that year and it was certainly a fairytale season for the Norwegian striker.

After undergoing surgery on his knee once again, Solskjaer decided to call time on his career at the age of 34. On September 4 2007, the legendary striker announced his retirement during a home game against Sunderland and received a guard of honour from the United and Sunderland players along with over 75,000 fans in attendance at Old Trafford that afternoon.

In his career with Manchester United, Solskjaer scored 126 goals in eleven years with the club. His testimonial was played the following year against Spanish side Espanyol, United won the match 1-0 with a goal from Fraizer Campbell.

Since retiring from the game, Solskjaer has since gone on to become highly successful as a manager. Firstly managing the Manchester United Reserve Team and winning the league in 2010 before going on to manage the team he once played for, Molde and guiding his former club to two Norwegian Premier League titles in two years.

Solskjaer holds the record for scoring 28 goals as a substitute for Manchester United, more than any other player. He also completed 67 caps for Norway and scored 23 international goals.

Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the best bargain signing Manchester United have ever made? Have your say below.


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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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