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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Solskjær in the spotlight

Norwegian football legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær could really take on the role of hero over the weekend, after leading the Molde Football Club to its first league championship ever, in his own first season as Molde’s coach. The former Manchester United star claimed last week, though, that he has no intention of quickly turning around and heading back to England.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has led the Molde Football Club to a league championship during his first year as coach. PHOTO: Molde Football Club

“I want to return to England at some point,” Solskjær told newspaper Aftenposten before Molde’s league championship was firmed up. But he said he had no plans to leave any time soon.

“It was first and foremost because of my family that I came back to Norway,” said Solskjær, who’s from the west coast city of Kristiansund and played for Molde early in his career. The attraction of nearby grandparents for their children and the importance of spending time in the “homeland” were major factors, he has said earlier, in addition to the chance to take on the role as head coach of a pro club for the first time.

“It will be a while before I say ‘yes’ to a job in England,” he stressed. “I’ve been honest about this from the first day in Molde: Yes, I want to go back to the Premier League one day. But if that’s in two, 10 or 15 years, or never, I don’t know.”

His success with Molde won’t make him any less attractive to potential job offers. One commentator wrote on Monday that Molde, under Solskjær’s coaching, won the championship simply because they won the most matches and played the “most attractive” football.

Molde, celebrating its 100th anniversary as a club this year, couldn’t have more reason to celebrate and the city was dressed up for a party. Some got worried when Molde’s own match on Sunday ended in a 2-2 tie against Strømsgodset, but another match up in Trondheim, in which Brann of Bergen beat hometown team Rosenborg 6-3, gave Molde the necessary points to secure its own league championship.

Solskjær said he remains mostly concerned now with “continuing to develop” Molde “as well as I can.” And then, he says, “maybe I’ll be good enough if a new (coaching) offer eventually turns up.”

Meanwhile, Norwegian football fans were finding it remarkable that “little Molde” has become the Norwegian city with the country’s best football team, beating out bigger clubs like Vålerenga in Oslo and, not least, Rosenborg in Trondheim. Solskjær clearly has made a difference, but he gallantly cited “a fantastic support system” (which has included financial support from billionaire businessmen Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjelsten over the years), great fans and talented players. He wouldn’t take all the credit.

“Solskjær is smart,” wrote columnist Erlend Nesje in newspaper Aftenposten. Nesje hails from Molde himself and has followed Solskjær since he was young teenage talent. “He’d put in a safety margin, he didn’t want to promise too much,” Nesje noted. “In that way, it was expeced that Molde would end up around the four or five top teams this year.”

Instead they soared all the way to the top, but now Solskjær will face new demands to keep them there. “From now on there will be new expectations,” Nesje cautioned. Molde will need to keep improving, make its mark out in Europe, maybe even play in the Champions League against Manchester United at Old Trafford some day. Solskjær will need all his smartness, but the former player often called “Sunny Boy” has good chances to keep shining.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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