Many years ago unstoppable Norwegian vikings stormed the British Isles. Their modern day counterparts are no less hardy except for one glaring weakness: they can’t seem to crack managing a football club in Britain.
Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the ‘baby-faced assassin’ who shattered the German resistance in the 1999 Champions League final with the ultimate poacher’s goal, about to change that?
The 40-year-old became the fourth Norwegian to manage in England when he was appointed Cardiff City boss today, on the back of several successful seasons at the helm of Molde – in his native country – and former club Manchester United’s reserve team following his retirement in 2007.
For a man who spent the bulk of his career observing the managerial talents of Sir Alex Ferguson, who won 38 trophies in his 26 years at Old Trafford, the job should come easily to him.
So far, so good. It didn’t take Solskjaer long to start winning at United’s reserves and he took those good vibes with him across the North Sea to Molde, helping them win their first league title in their centenary year at the first time of asking in 2011.
The very next season they did it again. Alas, the three-peat, hat-trick, call it what you will, was not to be in 2013 but victory in the Norwegian Cup showed Solskjaer to be a manager for all occasions.
Now he has his chance on the biggest stage, the Premier League. Trouble is, not only have his countrymen found managing at the highest level in England difficult, so too have the list of former United players turned coaches.
Egil Olsen endured a troubled stint at Wimbledon in 1999/2000 while Stale Solbakken lasted just six months at Wolverhampton Wanderers until his sacking just under a year ago and Henning Berg had even less time (57 days) in the Blackburn Rovers hotseat until he was axed in December 2012.
Other players from the Ferguson era to have turned their hand to management include former Manchester City boss Mark Hughes (currently at Stoke City), Blackpool manager Paul Ince and Hull City’s Steve Bruce.
Bryan Robson, nicknamed ‘Captain Marvel’ during his playing days for his remarkable work rate, had to resign from the Thailand national team job as he battled throat cancer while Roy Keane is a TV pundit after his time in charge at Sunderland.
All phenomenal players on the pitch, none have reached such heights in the managerial dugout.
No matter, says Solskjaer, who is hoping his sunny personality will shine on Cardiff as they seek to preserve their Premier League status having secured a spot in the lucrative top flight last summer after a 51-year absence.
“I’ve had the best times of my career in the Premier League. I can’t wait to lead Cardiff in front of this passionate support,” he told a press conference to unveil him.
Cynics have been quick to label Cardiff’s owner Vincent Tan, the Malaysian billionaire, as no different to other money-laden owners who have changed the face of football in recent seasons by outpouring vast sums of cash to ensure the best chance of success.
Solskjaer has apparently already been granted plenty of spending money throughout the January transfer window, but the likelihood is that the Norwegian will place his emphasis on building a team around his ethos of hard work and commitment, not to mention steely competitiveness.
It’s hard to dislike Solskjaer. Though he spent over 10 years at United during their purple patch, while teammates were regular targets for bitter fans of other clubs the amiable Norwegian seemed immune to such vitriolic abuse from the touchlines.
This could stand him in good stead, though in this day and age where success is unrealistically demanded of managers only recently appointed to new positions, seemingly no one escapes the axe that has already culled six top flight managers in the 2013/14 season.
Fittingly, Solskjaer is of Norwegian ilk. But he seems thoroughly modern too.
“He is an extremely good communicator. Common sense, pragmatic discussions and trust were the key in bringing Ole here,” said Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman.
He could be the luckiest chairman in the Premier League.
Image courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube, with thanks.