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Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ole Gunnar Solskjær (born February 26, 1973) is a Norwegian football player who currently plays for Manchester United. Before he moved to England, Solskjær completed a years national service in the Norwegian army [1], he 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 July 29th, 1996, for a transfer fee of £1.5m. He currently wears the number 20 shirt for Manchester United. He is a patron of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (formerly Shareholders United).

Solskjær is renowned for his tendency to score goals late in the game, often handing Manchester United a draw or win from the brink of defeat. The most famous example of this came in injury time of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

Biography

Manchester United debut

When Sir Alex Ferguson failed to sign Alan Shearer, he settled for this then-unknown Norwegian striker. 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.

Ole 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 vital goals. Sir 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.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Personal information
Date of birth February 26, 1973 (1973-02-26) (age 34)
Place of birth    Kristiansund, Norway
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position Striker/Winger
Club information
Current club Manchester United
Number 20
Youth clubs
  Clausenengen
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
1990-1994
1994-1996
1996-
Clausenengen
Molde
Manchester United
00? 0(?)
042 (31)
235 (92)   
National team2
1995- Norway 067 (23)
1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only and
correct as of 27 July 2007 (UTC).
2 National team caps and goals correct
as of 27 July 2007 (UTC).
* Appearances (Goals)

Peak of career

Ole enjoyed life at Old Trafford and decided to stay even though a number of other clubs showed interest in the player in 1998, including Tottenham Hotspur, with an offer of £5.5 million. United fans were eternally grateful, as the slightly-built Norwegian went on to score the winning goal in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, helping the team secure the astonishing Treble and cementing his own place in the United folklore. These feats, as well as his likeable demeanour, made him a firm 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 to compete with for a place in the starting line-up. Still, Ferguson's persistence in playing Ruud 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 versatile Norwegian on the right wing. While proving himself to be a fine crosser of the ball, Solskjær also popped up with crucial 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 in the 1998 FIFA World Cup for Norway and Euro 2000 and has over 60 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 heavy-weight attacking force of Manchester United. The Old Trafford faithful, however, displayed an almost fanatical loyalty to indicate their desire to see Solskjær in action again.

To show their continuing support, fans added a banner to the famous collection that lines the Stretford End reading "20 LEGEND"[2] (Solskjær wears number 20 for United). Solskjær further solidified his status amongst United fans when he became a patron of the supporters action group, Shareholders United.

Back from injury

Solskjær made his long-awaited return to action on December 5, 2005, playing for United's reserves against Liverpool.[3] 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 March 8, 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,[4] he nevertheless appeared as a substitute against Sunderland on Good Friday.

Solskjær returned to Premiership action in August 23, 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 in a spectacular fashion 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 top form scoring the third goal in the 3 - 1 win over Wigan on Boxing Day. Solskjær continued his magnificent 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 F.C., 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 Sir 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 had been announced that Solskjær had undergone minor surgery after he reported discomfort in his knee while training with Norway. The surgery was very successful and Solskjær will certainly be fit for the start of the 2007-08 permiership season with Manchester United.

Future career as player-coach

On March 31, 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 Manchester United Soccer School of 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.[5] On August 16, 2006 Solskjær returned for the Norwegian national team and played for 45 minutes against Brazil in a 1-1 draw.

On September 02, 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 April 19, 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 is likely to be offered a testimonial following his long service to the club—and in recognition of his popularity with supporters.[6]

In an interview in July covered on ManUtd.com, Solskjær refused to put a timescale on his professional career, but he is confident he will play out the one year left in his contract at Manchester United. He said, "The knee will never be 100 per cent 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."

He has wanted a coaching job with Manchester United and will more than likely featuring in the United coaching team in years to come as Sir Alex Ferguson said that Ole would more than likely do so.

Personal life

Solskjær lives in Bramhall and is married with two children. He recently admitted he is not his sons favourite player — United team-mate Wayne Rooney is [7]. When a child himself, Solskjær trained as a wrestler as his father was once national champion.

Honours

With Manchester United (1996 - present)

  • FA Premier League - Champions (6): 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07
  • FA Premier League - Runners Up: 1997-98, 2005-06
  • FA Cup Winner (2): 1999, 2004
  • FA Cup Runners Up: 2005, 2007
  • League Cup Winner (1): 2006
  • League Cup Runners Up: 2003
  • UEFA Champions League Winner: 1998-99
  • Intercontinental Cup: 1999
  • UEFA Super Cup Runner Up: 1999
  • Community Shield Winner (4): 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007
  • Community Shield Runner Up: 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004

References

  1. ^ Carling Cups news: Meet the teams [1]
  2. ^ Geocities
  3. ^ BBC News article
  4. ^ BBC News article
  5. ^ BBC News article
  6. ^ ABC Australia article
  7. ^ TheWorldGame: No substitute for Solskjaer [2]


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