London - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made his name as a player at Manchester United
for his impact off the bench and his ability to work the same magic from
the dugout has earned him the full-time manager's job at Old Trafford.
Few expected Solskjaer to remain beyond his caretaker spell to the
end of the season when he was hired in December in an emergency solution
to a spiralling crisis towards the end of Jose Mourinho's reign.
Solskjaer was summoned from Molde in his homeland, where he had won
two league titles, but his only previous Premier League managerial
experience ended in relegation and the sack at Cardiff after less than
nine months in charge.
His first day began by delivering a bar of Norwegian chocolate to the
long-serving receptionist on his arrival at the club's Carrington
It was a simple gesture but one that showed a personable side and
deep understanding of Manchester United that has spread to help cleanse
the toxic atmosphere that characterised the end of Mourinho's era.
"From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club," said Solskjaer on Thursday.
In just over three months, he has not only transformed results on the
pitch, but the whole atmosphere around the club to such an extent that
the announcement that his caretaker role was being made permanent on
Thursday seemed just a matter of time.
Under Solskjaer, United have cut an 11-point gap to the Premier
League top four to just two and most impressively dumped out
free-spending Paris Saint-Germain to make the Champions League
quarter-finals for the first time in five years, with Barcelona next in
"The results and performances have been beyond incredible really,
almost flawless," Solskjaer's former teammate and United captain Gary
Neville told Sky Sports.
Freed from the fear of being punished for making mistakes under
Mourinho, an abundantly talented squad have begun to deliver on their
potential with Paul Pogba, at loggerheads with the previous manager, to
"He is a really happy coach that gave confidence back to the players," said Pogba last week.
"This gave us the freedom to play and enjoy football again because maybe we lost that with the results that we had before."
Some of United's style and swagger of old has also returned.
Solskjaer still refers to his mentor Alex Ferguson as "the boss" and has
tried to implement the Scot's brand of attacking, exciting football.
"In the last two or three months, I've felt excited by what I've seen
for the first time in a while, the atmosphere in the ground has
returned, the joy on the fans' faces, the away following has connected
with the team again," added Neville.
However, the result that ended any serious doubt over Solskjaer's
prospects for the job on a permanent basis also showed an ability to
Shorn of 10 first-team players through injury and suspension, United
overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit to eliminate PSG on away goals with a
3-1 win in the French capital.
Victory that night and away wins at Tottenham and Arsenal have
showcased a willingness to soak up pressure and hit on the
counter-attack that demonstrates a greater tactical nous than simply
putting smiles back on the faces of star players.
Solskjaer has also revitalised a United trait of old by looking to the club's academy.
When needing a goal in Paris, he turned to teenagers Mason Greenwood
and Tahith Chong off the bench, while academy graduates Marcus Rashford
and Jesse Lingard have flourished.
"More than just performances and results, Ole brings a wealth of
experience, both as a player and as a coach, coupled with a desire to
give young players their chance and a deep understanding of the culture
of the club," said the club's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Once termed the "baby-faced assassin" for his childish looks and
predatory instincts in front of goal, Solskjaer has grown up fast as a
manager to earn a shot his "dream job."