Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær signed a new three-year deal with the club, continuing his tenure as manager until 2024, with an additional year option. As Solskjær continues his role as United’s manager, let’s take a look at the Norwegian’s managerial journey so far and what lies ahead for United’s Treble hero.
The former Norwegian striker, who represented the club as a player from 1996 – 2007, was a key member of United’s Treble winning campaign in 1998-99. Post his playing career, Solskjær managed the Manchester United Academy between 2008 – 2011. Solskjær was interested in coaching since his playing days, making sure that he was given the option to further work on his coaching when he signed his final player contract with United in 2006. After having a successful career with United’s reserve team, eventually winning the Manchester Senior Cup, Solskjær was offered the opportunity in 2009 to become the head coach of the Norwegian national team. Having only had reserve team experience, Solskjær turned down the offer, stating he wasn’t ready yet to do justice to the role.
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A year later, in 2010, Solskjær signed his first contract as a senior manager with Norwegian side Molde. After a successful stint with the Norwegian club, Solskjær was also offered the Aston Villa job in 2012, but he declined the offer, committing to the Norwegian club. After a tough final season, Solskjær left Molde having helped the club qualify for the 2014-15 Europa qualifiers for the first time in the club’s history.
Solskjær was signed on as Cardiff City’s manager in January 2014. He started strongly having beaten Newcastle United in his first game in charge. The Norwegian struggled, though, for the remainder of his time at Cardiff, with the club finishing 20th, which meant Solskjær left Cardiff at the start of the next season.
Solskjær returned to Molde a year after his departure from Cardiff, signing a three-year deal with the Norwegian club. Solskjær’s second stint with Molde was a mixed bag, having taken important victories throughout but failing to win any silverware. In what would turn out to be his final season with Molde, Solskjær took his side to a second-place finish, his best since returning to Norway. For his second-place finish in the 2018 season, Solskjær was handed a new three-year contract in December 2018.
Although he had a contract with Molde, post-José Mourinho’s departure from Manchester United in December 2018, Solskjær was appointed as caretaker manager for the rest of the season, with his assistant coach Erling Moe taking over his duties at Molde. Solskjær’s return to United was received well by fans and players alike, with Solskjær winning 14 of his 19 games in charge and taking a Premier League Manager of the Month award. His success during his short stint saw the club offer him a three-year contract in 2019, allowing Solskjær to take over as the permanent manager. His first full season with United was one of United’s most successful season since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, with Solskjær taking United to a third place finish, with it being only the third time since Ferguson’s retirement that United finished in the top 3. Although he couldn’t win any silverware, he reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, FA Cup, and Europa League in his first entire season as Manchester United’s full-time manager. The 2020-21 season was a season of ‘what ifs’ for Solskjær as United overcome a slow start to the season to take the first position in the table for the first time since the 2012-13 season and speculations arose whether Solskjær could bring back glory to United. Although inconsistency along with Manchester City’s dominance saw United finish second in the league, Solskjær’s bid for that elusive silverware continued as he saw United lose out in penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League final.
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Solskjær’s Road Ahead
Even though, he still waits his first major trophy with United, Solskjær has won the confidence of the United board, with the higher ups believing that a trophy will be coming to Old Trafford soon. Solskjær took over a squad, which was built and developed by José Mourinho. During his caretaker stint, the Norwegian had worked around them to finish a stellar run in his first run with United. Although he had a strong and successful start to the season, Solskjær, very early on, was sure about the team and culture he wanted to build at United. The Norwegian had mentioned post a 4-0 drubbing from Everton that he was here to be successful but not all the players present would be part of that success, sending out the message that the players who were instilled in the system by his predecessors will not be guaranteed of a spot in his side if they didn’t fit into his plans. In the succeeding two years, Solskjær has done just that, as he has made sure United’s academy has ready-made players who are waiting to burst onto the scene along with acquiring some sensible buys that have helped him develop his team.
The rise of youngsters such as Mason Greenwood and Dean Henderson showcases his commitment to developing and nurturing talents from the academy while also ensuring the club has the right balance of youth and experience. Solskjær played a crucial role in the acquiring the services of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, and most recently Jadon Sancho, all of whom barring the latter (for now), have proven to be important figures in Solskjær’s plan to re-build United to take the team back to its glory days. Most recently, Sancho’s move to United epitomized Solskjær’s commitment to developing and building a team. Solskjær had mentioned post-Sancho’s acquisition that Sancho was the kind of player he wants at United, reiterating his thought process.
With the backing of the board and a group of players that fit into his philosophy, it is time for Solskjær to bring the silverware to Old Trafford as a manager, just as he had done as a player.