UPDATED: Norwegian football legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær will take on the position of manager at English Premier League side Cardiff City. Solskjær, who took Norwegian club Molde to the top of its own league, announced the three-year deal at a press conference in the Welsh capital on Thursday, and will reportedly get millions from club management to reinvigorate the team.
The announcement followed bids by several clubs to secure Solsjkær as manager, and fierce speculation over the direction he’d take. Solskjær said he was contacted by several people warning him not to take the position, but denied rumours his former coach at Manchester United, Alex Ferguson, was among them.
“That’s from people who are standing on the outside looking in,” Solskjær told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I know what I’m setting out to do.” Solskjær has been in London this week, meeting with club owner Vincent Tan and watching Cardiff City take on Arsenal. “I have always wanted to come back to the Premier League, of course. After having met Vincent I was convinced. For me it’s a fantastic challenge.”
Not about the money
UK newspaper The Guardian has reported Tan offered Solskjær 25 million pounds (NOK 250 million) for January’s transfer period. “There was never any issue about how much money I get,” countered Solskjær, saying for him it was more about shaping the club culture. “The big question is what kind of culture I will create. That’s what the conversations have been about.”
“I’m lucky, I’m taking over a fantastic gang with fantastic, hardworking play, and they’re used to winning matches,” he continued. The Premier League is the best time of your life. I wish I was 25 again, but I am lucky to be a manager now.”
Team needs a lift
Solskjær will have his work cut out from him when he takes over in time for Saturday’s match against Newcastle. Cardiff City is ranked 17th out of the 20 Premier League clubs, and is hovering one point above the relegation zone.
He’s not worried. “What they’ve done for the last three or four years, they’ve caught up and been in cup finals,” said Solsjær. “They are ready to take the next step, and hopefully it’s me who can take them further.”
Solskjær, who originally hails from Kristiansund, will take over from former manager Malkay Mackay, who was sacked in late December. He plans to take Molde coaching staff Mark Dempsey and Richard Hartis with him to Cardiff City. All three still have six months remaining on their contracts with Molde, reported NRK.
Molde set to carry on
During his own career, Solskjær debuted at Clausenengen before signing in 1995 with Norwegian A-league team, Molde FK. He scored 31 goals in 42 games for Molde, before joining Manchester United in the English Premier League in 1996. He played 366 games and scored 126 goals. He has coached Manchester United’s reserve team, and coached Molde for the past three years before taking up his new role at Cardiff City.
His stint at Molde took the club to the top of its league in Norway and won the country’s prestigious Cup Final just this past fall. His move back across the North Sea is a loss for Molde but not unexpected, and club managers congratulated Solskjær on his new job. “We would gladly have seen him stay on at Molde, but we understand he wants to pursue new challenges,” Chairman Leif-Arne Langøy told NRK. “We wish him good luck.”
At the same time Langøy and club managers revealed a gift of NOK 125 million from club benefactors Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjelsten, to expand Molde’s stadium and help secure operations. Molde doesn’t think it will have a hard time attracting a new coach: “We’re more attractive than ever, and several competent coaches have already signaled their interest.”