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OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ole Gunnar Solskjær (born 26 February 1973 in Kristiansund, Møre og Romsdal) is a Norwegian former footballer who spent the majority of his career playing for Manchester United, often dubbed the "Baby-faced assassin". He is the current Manchester United Reserve team manager. He played 366 times for the Red Devils and scored 126 goals during a very successful period for the club. Despite his long career at United, Solskjær's defining moment in football came in injury time of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final where he scored the winning last-minute goal against Bayern Munich, completing a remarkable comeback and winning The Treble for United.

Before he moved to England, Solskjær completed a year's national service in the Norwegian army, and played part time for Third Division Norwegian Clausenengen F.K., later moving to Norwegian Premier League Molde F.K. in 1994. He joined United on 29 July 1996, for a transfer fee of £1.5m. He is a patron of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (formerly Shareholders United).

On 27 August 2007, Solskjær announced his retirement from football after failing to recover from a serious knee injury. However, Solskjær remained at Old Trafford in a coaching role, as well as in an ambassadorial capacity. On 20 May 2008, Solskjær was announced as Manchester United's first full-time Reserve team manager since 2006, taking over from Brian McClair and Jimmy Ryan, who had filled the role in a caretaker capacity.

In November 2007 Solskjær was made a Knight, First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav by King Harald V of Norway. He is to be presented with the award in a later ceremony in his hometown of Kristiansund. Solskjær is the youngest ever recipient of the knighthood, usually bestowed upon notable members of society in their later years.

For his commitment to Manchester United, Solskjaer was granted a testimonial which took place in the pre-season preparations for the 2008-09 season. The match was against Espanyol and was played on August 2nd. The game ended 1-0 to Manchester United, with the only goal coming from Fraizer Campbell shortly after the 80 minute mark. The testimonial gathered 68,868 spectators, the 2nd largest attendance for a testimonial in Great Britain, only beaten by Roy Keane's testimonial.

Biography

Early career

Played for Clausenengen and impressed in Otta Cup as a 16-year old with 17 goals in six matches. Joined Molde FK in 1995 and scored 34 goals in his first season in the Norwegian premiership.

Early Manchester United years

Solskjær had scored 31 goals in 42 matches for Molde in the Norwegian Premier League, and he did not disappoint at the start of his United career, scoring six minutes into his debut as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers in the Premiership in the 1996-97 season.

Solskjær scored 18 Premiership goals for United in his first season, helping United win the title in the last weeks of the season. The British media nicknamed him the "Baby-Faced Assassin" because of his youthful looks and his deadly finishing. He will perhaps be best remembered as a "super-sub", having earned wide acclaim for a remarkable habit of coming into matches late on as a substitute and scoring goals. Alex Ferguson remarked that Solskjær has a knack of sitting on the bench and studying the game without taking his eye off the action. One of his most impressive feats was coming off the bench to score four goals in the last twelve minutes of United's 8-1 thrashing of Nottingham Forest.

Solskjær stayed at Old Trafford even though other clubs showed interest in the player in 1998. The Norwegian went on to score the winning goal in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, helping the team secure the Treble and cementing his own place in the United folklore. These feats made him a favourite among the United supporters, inspiring songs such as "Who Put the Ball in the Germans' Net?" and "You Are My Solskjær". Although he had been absent on the pitch for a long time due to injury, United fans still fill matches with chants sung in Solskjær's honour.

After a few years of playing in the role of super-sub, Solskjær got a chance as a starter in the 2001-02 season, paired up with striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. He took the opportunity with characteristic incisiveness, forcing Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke onto the bench.

By 2002-03, after both Andrew Cole and Dwight Yorke had left Old Trafford, Solskjær had only Diego Forlán and Van Nistelrooy to compete with for a place in the starting line-up. Still, Ferguson's persistence in playing van Nistelrooy up front as a lone striker meant that opportunities were limited.

Solskjær was subsequently given his time again when David Beckham picked up an injury and Ferguson played the Norwegian on the right wing. While proving himself to be an able crosser of the ball, Solskjær also popped up with goals, scoring a total of 16 goals for the season. He was selected to play on the right in important matches, such as in the league game against Arsenal and the Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid, while Beckham was left on the bench. He also captained the team in a number of matches.

Solskjær played for Norway in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000 and has 67 international caps.

Injury-plagued seasons

In 2003-04, Solskjær found himself in and out of the United squad as he struggled with a recurring knee problem. Coupled with the arrival of Louis Saha from Fulham in January 2004, Solskjær found himself out of the first team and found himself either in his original role of super-sub or in central midfield. Solskjær still returned from injury in time to play in the 2004 FA Cup final, which the club won. The arrival of Alan Smith in summer 2004 nonetheless led to rumours that Solskjær was to leave Old Trafford, along with Nicky Butt, who eventually moved to Newcastle United, and David Bellion, who had been largely replaced by Wayne Rooney. Solskjær underwent intensive knee surgery in August 2004 and had to miss the 2004-05 season entirely. While he eventually recovered his fitness, it was difficult for the 32-year-old to carve his niche again among the attack of Manchester United. The Old Trafford faithful, however, displayed loyalty to indicate their desire to see Solskjær in action again.

To show their continuing support, fans added a banner to the collection that lines the Stretford End reading "20 LEGEND (Solskjær wore number 20 for United). Solskjær further solidified his status amongst United fans when he became a patron of the supporters action group, Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), previously Shareholders United.

Back from injury

Solskjær made his long-awaited return to action on 5 December 2005, playing for United's reserves against Liverpool. Spectators numbering 2,738 showed up to witness the comeback of the popular Norwegian - an above-average turn-out for a reserve team match. He made his first-team return as a substitute in the match against Birmingham City on 28 December. He then finally made his first start more than a year later in the FA Cup match against Burton Albion, before playing a full game as a captain in the re-play. His return to full fitness slowly continued with regular appearances in the reserves, until on 8 March 2006 when, during a game against Middlesbrough, he was accidentally caught by Ugo Ehiogu, breaking his cheekbone. While facing the possibility of missing the rest of the season, he nevertheless appeared as a substitute against Sunderland on Good Friday.

Solskjær returned to Premiership action in 23 August 2006 when he scored in an away match against Charlton Athletic, his first Premiership goal since April 2003. Ferguson commented after the match that "it was a great moment for Ole, United fans everywhere, the players and the staff" and that "Ole has been through a torrid time with injuries for the last two years, but he's persevered and never lost faith and has got his repayment tonight. Everyone is over the moon for him." He continued his come-back by putting in the winning goal in the Champions League clash with Celtic on September 13, fulfilling his post-injury ambition to score another goal at Old Trafford. Solskjær's first Premiership goal at Old Trafford since the return came on October 1 when he netted both goals in the 2-0 win against Newcastle. His goalscoring form continued with when he started the away match against Wigan Athletic and struck a sublime finish to round off a 3-1 victory, and again against Crewe Alexandra, on October 25, 2006, scoring the first of the 2-1 victory. After a further injury sustained in Copenhagen, Solskjær again returned on form scoring the third goal in the 3-1 win over Wigan on Boxing Day. Solskjær continued his form by scoring United's opening goal in their 3-2 win over Reading on the 30th of December. Additionally, he came on as a substitute to score an injury-time winner in the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup on 7 January 2007.

After a match against Reading, Solskjær had further surgery on his knee. However, it was not as serious as his previous operations, and he was put out of action for only a month. He was predicted to be available for the 31 March game against Blackburn. United boss Alex Ferguson said: "It was good timing with the international break coming up. It gave us the opportunity to get the thing done." Solskjær did make his comeback from injury against Blackburn Rovers as a late substitute, and even scored in the 89th minute to seal Manchester United's 4-1 win.

On 5 June 2007, it was announced that Solskjær had undergone minor surgery after he reported discomfort in his knee while training with Norway. The surgery was a success, but Solskjær failed to fully recover and announced his retirement from professional football on 27 August 2007.

Since his retirement, there have been calls from football fans that Sir Alex Ferguson should retire the number 20 shirt as a tribute to Solskjær.

Testimonial

On 2 August 2008, a testimonial was played in honour of Solskjær at Old Trafford against Espanyol. Over 68,000 fans were present as United eventually got the winner from substitute Fraizer Campbell. Solskjær appeared in the 68th minute, replacing Carlos Tevez. He hit the target three times and was credited for his role in influencing the young Campbell's play. At the end of the game, he addressed the fans, thanking the staff, players, fans and his family.

Future career as player-coach

On 31 March 2006, Solskjær signed a new contract with Manchester United until the end of the 2008 season, with a provision to allow him to develop his coaching awards. He also acted in an ambassadorial role for the club, when he travelled to Hong Kong in 2006 and played with students at the Manchester United Soccer School in Hong Kong. In July 2006, Solskjær participated in a pre-season game against Orlando Pirates, playing for 45 minutes and scoring 2 goals in United's 4-0 win. He also scored in matches against Preston North End and F.C. Porto. Ferguson praised the player and said he would re-consider his plan to buy a new striker. On 16 August 2006 Solskjær returned for the Norwegian national team and played for 45 minutes against Brazil in a 1-1 draw.

On 2 September 2006, Solskjær scored his first goal for the national team after his injury, when he scored the first and last goals in a 4-1 win against Hungary in a Euro 2008 qualifying match. It was also his first post-injury professional match where he played the full game.

On 19 April 2007, Solskjær stated that he could not see himself playing professional football past his contract expiry date, at the end of the 2008 season. He has already been granted a testimonial following his long service to the club—and in recognition of his popularity with supporters. The match took place on August 2nd 2008, a 1-0 win over RCD Espanyol. Solskjaer played the final 25 minutes of the match, coming close to scoring on two occasions.

In an interview in July covered on ManUtd.com, Solskjær refused to put a timescale on his professional career, but he was confident he would play out the one year left in his contract at Manchester United. He said, "The knee will never be 100 percent again, but as long as it doesn't hurt I'll continue to play. I don't know how long I can continue. It might be over after this season or I might be able to play another season." When interviewed by Setanta Sports in August 2007, Solskjær confirmed he would train to be a coach after retiring from professional football, and would start to earn the required badges after his last season with Manchester United. He also stated that unless his knee returned to a better state by the end of the 2007-08 season, that would definitely be his last season.

On 27 August 2007, it was announced that Solskjær had retired from football with immediate effect due to his ongoing knee injury. Finally, on September 4 at the home game against Sunderland, his retirement was officially announced over the Old Trafford tannoy, with Solskjær walking onto the pitch to a standing ovation. As of his retirement, Solskjær holds the record for the most goals scored for Manchester United as a substitute, scoring 28 goals off the bench.

First step into coaching

Following his retirement, Solskjær worked for Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, coaching the strikers on the first team for the remainder of the 2007–08 season.

During the summer of 2008, he took over the Manchester United Reserves. He won the 2007–08 Lancashire Senior Cup by defeating the Liverpool Reserves 3–2 in the final.

Personal life

Solskjær lives in Bramhall with his wife, Silje, and their three children, Noah, Karna and Elijah. He recently admitted he is not his son Noah's favourite player — his former United team-mate Wayne Rooney is.

Honours

Manchester United

Individual

International goals

Ole Gunnar Solskjær: International Goals
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 26 November 1995 Kingston 1-1 Draw Friendly
2 27 March 1996 Windsor Park, Belfast 2-0 Win Friendly
3 2 June 1996 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 5-0 Win FIFA World Cup 1998 Qual.
4
5 30 April 1997 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 1-1 Draw FIFA World Cup 1998 Qual.
6 25 March 1998 King Baudouin Stadium, Brüssel 2-2 Draw Friendly
7 27 May 1998 Molde stadion, Molde 6-0 Win Friendly
8
9 27 March 1999 Olympic Stadium (Athens) 2-0 Win UEFA Euro 2000 Qual.
10
11 28 April 1999 Tblisi 4-1 Win UEFA Euro 2000 Qual.
12 8 September 1999 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 4-0 Win UEFA Euro 2000 Qual.
13 9 October 1999 Daugava Stadium, Riga 2-1 Win UEFA Euro 2000 Qual.
14 27 May 2000 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 2-0 Win Friendly
15 24 March 2001 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 2-3 Defeat FIFA World Cup 2002 Qual.
16 28 March 2001 Minsk 1-2 Defeat FIFA World Cup 2002 Qual.
17 15 August 2001 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 1-1 Draw Friendly
18 14 May 2002 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 3-0 Win Friendly
19 22 May 2002 Aspmyra stadium, Bodø 1-1 Draw Friendly
20 2 April 2003 Luxembourg City 2-0 Win UEFA Euro 2004 Qual.
21 11 June 2003 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 1-1 Draw UEFA Euro 2004 Qual.
22 2 September 2006 Budapest 4-1 Win UEFA Euro 2008 Qual.
23

Career statistics

1990 Clausenengen 2. Division 1991 3. Division 1992 3. Division 1993 3. Division 1994 2. Division 1995 Molde Premier League 26 20 1996 16 11 1996–97 Manchester United Premier League 33 17 1997–98 22 6 1998–99 19 12 1999–00 28 12 2000–01 31 10 2001–02 26 17 2 1 0 0 14 7 42 25 2002–03 37 9 2 1 4 1 14 4 57 15 2003–04 13 0 3 0 0 0 2 1 18 1 2004–05 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2005–06 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 2006–07 19 7 6 2 1 1 0 0 26 10151 146 235 90 386 236

References

External links

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