Is Ole Gunnar Come Good?
This week saw the appointment of Manchester United’s legendary super sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Cardiff City manager. Much of the reaction has been about the charismatic and megalomaniacal owner Vincent Tan, but I’d rather take a look at up-and-coming Norwegian new kid on the block, and what makes him the right man for South Wales.
January 3rd, 2014
When Vincent Tan decided it was time to play god with a football club, Cardiff were the lucky, or to some – unlucky – recipients of his many millions of pounds. Whilst they achieved promotion to the top flight for the first time in over 50 years under Malkay Mackay, it didn’t come without it’s controversies. First Tan decided that the Bluebirds should play in red, rather than their traditional blue, due to it’s lucky connotations in some parts of Asia. He then proceeded to change the badge to prominently feature a dragon alongside a bluebird.
These ideas were all concocted in the mind of a man who didn’t even know the rules of the game before he took over in 2010. However something worked, and Mackay got Cardiff into the Premier League.
Despite spending large sums in the summer transfer window, Cardiff have had an indifferent season. They currently lie in 17th, one place and one point above the relegation zone. They’ve had good wins against teams such as Manchester City and a draw against Manchester United, however this has been offset by losses to relegation rivals such as Crystal Palace. Ultimately Mackay paid the price, and despite many saying he was doing a good job, the table doesn’t lie.
I don’t think we need to go into detail on the personal issues Mackay and Tan seemed to have with each other. There have been various public slanging matches between the two, and it’s safe to assume that neither were on each other’s Christmas card list. The final straw seemed to come after Tan sent Mackay an email stating ‘resign or be sacked’ which Mackay duly responded with “I’m not resigning.’
The rest is history, and Mackay was gone 10 days later.
Into the New Year we headed, and step forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It would seem as if Tan wanted Thor himself to manager Cardiff, but he got the closest thing in Norwegian Solskjaer. Ole certainly comes with some pedigree. He was nurtured under the tutelage of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, before heading to his homeland to take up the reins at Molde, from whom Manchester United bought him all those years ago. In his 3 seasons there, he has won two league titles and one cup title; that’s a rather impressive record for a young manager at the start of his career.
As a player Solskjaer was always tenacious, quick and great coming off the bench when you thought all was lost. He’s taken much of that into his management style, and his teams pay an attractive brand of attacking football. He wasn’t called the baby-faced assassin for nothing, you know.
But surely his successes can’t simply be down to playing, and then coaching, under Sir Alex – whom he still calls ‘the gaffer’. It would appear that management has always been in the back Ole’s mind, as he revealed in an interview with Sportsmail.
Solskjaer said: ‘That manager was always in me. I was at a stage when I wrote what we did in every single training session and then there was a period in my career when I wrote a mental diary as well.’
It’s not only this attention to detail that makes Solksjaer an effective coach, it’s also his ability to be flexible and tactically astute depending on the situation. He’s not afraid to experiment with different formations, with a 4-3-3 featuring flying full backs one of his favoured methods.
Cardiff fans will be enamoured with the already popular figure in English football; he declared that one of the most important objectives is of course to finish above arch rivals Swansea City, managed by fellow countryman Michael Laudrup.
Of course there’s no escaping the Manchester United in him, and he likes to mould (no pun intended) clubs to be run much like his former team. Surprisingly, he admits that he likes to do things his way, which would seem to contradict Tan’s line of thinking; only time will tell whether it will work out for Ole at Cardiff. With such a combustible temper, Vincent Tan could turn on his new man at any moment, and Solskjaer only has a rolling contract. However both parties have stated they had positive talks, and it’s certain that Solskjaer has the potential, and ability, to be a top manager.
Perhaps Manchester United will come calling in a few years?