Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s spell in charge at Old Trafford came to an end this month after just shy of three years in the role, with fans awaiting news of his next move
As attention turns towards Manchester United’s next long-term managerial appointment, there has been altogether less discussion of where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will go next.
Ralf Rangnick is poised to take over as Solskjaer’s immediate successor, as United prepare themselves for a second game under caretaker Michael Carrick, while Mauricio Pochettino is among the candidates to take over from the incoming interim manager next summer.
Solskjaer spent just under three years in the United dugout, having initially joined on an interim basis in the aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s dismissal, with his final game resulting in a 4-1 defeat away to Watford.
After leading United to successive top-four finishes, there should be some demand for his services, but the options available to the 48-year-old in the light of this season’s struggles are perhaps less lucrative than they might have been.
While Solskjaer didn’t necessarily have the managerial CV one would expect of a Manchester United manager, he still did a good job during both of his spells at Molde.
His back-to-back title wins in the early 2010s were enough to earn a move to Cardiff City, while the final season of his second spell at the club brought a second-place finish in the Eliteserien.
Molde have challenged for the title this season under Erling Moe, but look set to just miss out, and it may be the case that an opportunity eventually presents itself for Solskjaer to take over for a third time.
Norway’s national team missed out on a place at the World Cup after a nightmare final pair of fixtures, drawing a blank against Latvia before failing to take a second chance away to The Netherlands.
It was another near miss for manager Stale Solbakken, whose team suffered an extra-time play-off defeat to Serbia which ended their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020.
If the Norwegian FA decide to look elsewhere, we could very well see Solskjaer interviewed for the post, though there are a number of other contenders expected to be in the running.
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A struggling Premier League team
Solskjaer’s next destination may hinge on how long he is prepared to spend out of the game, and he may decide he needs a bit of a break after the stress of his final few weeks at Old Trafford.
By the time he’s ready to return, he may discover there is a team towards the bottom of the Premier League table who need someone capable of making an instant impact on results, and they may look at what happened when Solskjaer first replaced Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.
An offer from a team fighting for Champions League football looks unlikely right now, but a Premier League return is not out of the question, even if his tough few months at Cardiff might put off some.
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A club in a non-‘big four’ league
Despite Solskjaer’s struggles towards the end of his United tenure, his managerial career remains in its relative infancy.
Indeed, others with more top-level experience have decided (or had it decided for them) that the best way to rebuild their reputation is to take over at a club which frees them from the constant media attention of a big four league.
Claudio Ranieri spent a season at Nantes after leaving Leicester City amid a disastrous title defence, while Andre Villas-Boas followed his Tottenham struggles by winning trophies with Zenit. Could Solskjaer be the next to take this route?
Some time out and an ambassadorial role
While none of us can know the true mental toll experienced by Solskjaer at Old Trafford, managing a Premier League club with expectations like those at Man Utd is hardly going to be stress-free.
The last few weeks in particular can’t have been easy, as the manager tried and failed to revive the team’s fortunes, but he leaves with plenty of goodwill remaining.
“His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a Manager who gave us many great moments,” United’s statement read when Solskjaer was dismissed.
“He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family.”
Solskjaer’s popularity as a player was enough for plenty to hope things would work out for him as a manager, and have ensured his reputation remains intact to some degree.
A spell out of the game, while working as an ambassador, could help others remember why they loved him to begin with.
We’re entering this discussion with the assumption that Solskjaer wants another job in football management, but perhaps we’re being too hasty.
He has achieved more than other managers might have done, taking charge of two clubs where he was beloved as a player and delivering great memories to fans of both.
He may feel he has unfinished business, and few would begrudge him the opportunity to build a longer-lasting managerial legacy.
However, if he decides to walk away from the game at this stage, he’d be doing so having ticked off the main items on his management bucket list, so who could really blame him?