United speculation grows as Solskjaer secures first Molde title

October 31, 2011

By Phil O’Connor

No sooner had Molde stumbled across the finish line to win their first Norwegian league title in their hundred-year history than the speculation had started.

Would Molde coach and former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be the man to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at the English champions when the 69-year-old finally decides to retire?

United defender Rio Ferdinand seemed to think so, writing on Twitter that: “He will be a premier league manager very soon + a top 1 too.”

Former team mate David Beckham also got in on the act, telling Norwegian media in New York that Solskjaer was “a great player and an even better person”.

“Maybe he’ll be Manchester United manager one day,” the former England captain said after his LA Galaxy side beat the New York Red Bulls 1-0 in the MLS playoffs.

On the surface, Molde’s maiden league title echoed the Norwegian striker’s famed ability to enter the fray late and change the game in his team’s favour, as he did when helping Manchester United come back from a goal down to win the 1999 Champions League final in stoppage time.

Seven times in the preceding 99 years, Molde had been runners-up in Norway’s top flight. Then along came Solskjaer to perform one of his miracles.

Molde had been runners-up in 2009 but slumped to 11th in 2010, prompting a change of coach and setting the stage for the return of one of the club’s most famous sons.

It wasn’t all plain sailing. The season started badly with only two points from a possible nine, and there were whispers that maybe Solskjaer’s methods were better suited to the high-calibre professionals at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground than in Norway’s top flight.

Solskjaer didn’t give up and results improved as Molde started to climb the table. By the time they celebrated their centenary in June this year, they were on top.

A 2-0 win at Tromso at the beginning of October put Molde in the driving seat, but they made heavy weather of securing the title, drawing their last three games and conceding a last-minute equaliser at home to Stromsgodset when the title was more or less in the bag.

It took a 6-3 hammering of Rosenborg by Brann to finally put them out of sight and deliver the title that every football fan in the city of almost 25,000 had longed for.

In truth, it has been an inconsistent season for the new champions, and if Solskjaer is to be seriously considered as a long-term replacement for Ferguson, he’ll need to learn the fine art of picking up points even when his side is not playing well.

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