A legendary super-sub called upon again | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 21, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:47 AM, December 21, 2018

A legendary super-sub called upon again

If ever there has been one person to point to as Manchester United's super-sub, especially in the Premier League era, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's name should undoubtedly be the first one to pop into one's mind.

The Norwegian joined the club in 1996 as a relative unknown but quickly made a name for himself as Sir Alex Ferguson's ace in the hole, earning the moniker of 'the baby-faced assassin' for his evergreen looks and penchant for scoring off the bench, often deep into matches.

In the span of seconds the now 45-year-old became a bona fide legend, scoring that stoppage time winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final. He had plenty of other notable moments, such as when he scored four goals in 19 minutes against Nottingham Forest in a Premier League clash, but that one touch which fired the Red Devils to a famed treble shot him into footballing folklore.

However, despite all the goodwill that Solskjaer the player has with fans, his appointment as an interim manager is no different to Santiago Solari taking over Real Madrid earlier this season.

After both Spain and England's most decorated clubs endured some of their roughest starts to a season, the appointment of a fan favourite with some managerial pedigree has been received by fans as nothing short of a move to appease them.

And the Old Trafford faithful have been here before, although not on such a grand scale. David Moyes's sacking in 2013 saw club legend Ryan Giggs handed a player-manager role but that only lasted four games, nowhere near enough time for relations to sour.

 

Solskjaer does not have that comfort. He finds himself firmly in the hot-seat till the end of the season and although there is next to no chance the fanbase will turn on him, a sacking may be a blemish on the club where he made a career.

Back in Spain, Solari has done far better than expected, winning 10 of 12 games while losing the others but he has a far superior crop of players and manages a team that nobody relishes coming up against.

But Manchester United are a different prospect. In recent times teams have shown up to Sir Matt Busby Way not with the fear that once filled them, but knowing that they could pull off a sensational win against a team in turmoil.

Yet the move to appease fans has worked.

One of the biggest gripes with former manager Jose Mourinho was the dour brand of football on display, not to mention his proclivity of falling out with key players -- namely Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial.

Solskjaer seems to promise something different. He has already managed Pogba when he was coach of the Manchester United Reserves from 2008-2010, and shared dressing rooms with bigger egos. In his first full season as a manager, he brought Molde their first-ever Eliteserien title playing flowing, attacking football. He repeated the feat in his second season, again winning the top-flight league and adding the Norwegian Cup in his third season.

However, at Manchester United trophies only buy time. They did so for Mourinho; who may point to his Europa League and FA Cup triumphs as indicators that he has done better than the trophyless Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool or Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. But the brand of football that those two play -- the kind Manchester United fans expect their team to play -- and steady improvement is the reason they are still around.

Solskjaer's last managerial stint in England, when he was recruited to Cardiff City in January 2014, lasted six months before he was relieved of his duties having won nine, lost 16 and drawn five matches. However, with players better equipped for his brand of football, perhaps he can showcase his talents on the biggest of stages.

Even if he does, it is unlikely he will be able to turn things around significantly enough to be around next season. In the meantime he will have the unenviable job of repairing a fractured dressing room, translating his attractive brand of football onto a team that have not expressed themselves in years and perhaps making a run at the top four.

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