The new Norwegian season may still be three months away, but already there is a buzz of anticipation surrounding the 2011 campaign.
The return of Ole Gunnar Solskjær as coach of Molde FK has sent season ticket sales soaring at the Molde Stadion and injected fresh interest in a league once again dominated by Rosenborg BK. The 37-year-old began his first senior coaching job on Monday and, bred on success at Manchester United FC, it is no surprise to find he is already targeting silverware. "I return from England to win the Eliteserien; I am confident we can do it in my time at the club," he said.
Solskjær left Molde in 1996 and made his home at Old Trafford, entering United folklore with his dramatic late winner in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final. Injury forced his retirement having collected a sixth Premier League winner's medal in 2007 and he had been in charge of United's reserve team since 2008, until Molde came calling.
Working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson has obvious benefits for a young coach making his first steps in the game. "He has been amazing to watch, to look at ... It's just the enthusiasm, the desire of always wanting to get the best out of you. Always that winning mentality ... When you struggle, as a team, you've lost a couple of games, he never pushes the panic button," Solskjær told UEFA.com.
"He believes in his players, in the system because he trusts his back-room staff and his own judgment. You only get that by experience.
It's been a very, very good learning period. He's a fantastic motivator, he's a fantastic man-manager, I think he handles superstars so well. I learned so much from him in the last 14 and a half years."
Sir Alex's voracious appetite for hard work certainly rubbed off on his young protege. "I promised my wife we would get back to normal when I finished playing ... [but] the manager offered me a job after 20 seconds," Solskjær recalls. "I said: 'I can't play any more,' and he told me: 'Don't worry, you were fantastic, you had a great career, why don't you join my coaching staff?' Twenty seconds after I had retired, I got a job. I thought it was a great opportunity, that it would be fantastic to come and work with him every day."
Solskjær can also draw on the experience of working under the inspirational Egil Olsen as he embarks on the next phase of his career. The striker was in Olsen's Norway side that defeated Brazil at the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals and, like with Sir Alex, was impressed by how he got the most out of his players.
"Egil is fantastic in motivating the players and making them believe they can do it. His way of coaching and managing is different to anyone else I have seen. He's very eccentric, of course, but he's very direct: 'If you do this, you will be all right, but if you do that, you've got no chance'. He is very specific.
"I just had to do what he told me. We have been criticised for the way we played defensively, long balls. But you have to look at the players we have, the time he's had and the results he has got for Norway in his two reigns; it has been incredible."
Solskjær is not the only former Norwegian international to gain from Olsen's expertise. Ståle Solbakken, who played alongside Solskjær for the national side and will replace Olsen as Norway coach in 2012, is enjoying a terrific campaign at the helm of the FC København. He believes his former team-mate also has what it takes to succeed on the bench, though suggests he may need some time to get used to Norwegian football again.
"He has to, in his way, be more patient with the players who don't have the same technical and tactical ability [as at United] but I think he knows all about that," Solbakken told UEFA.com. "I think he will have to give that time and give the players time."
Solskjær, he adds, has not changed since he was thrilling fans for club and country in front of goal. "
He's as I know him from the national team – he has a good football brain, he's down to earth, he has probably had the best mentor ever in Ferguson and he was a great player," Solbakken said.
"He knows how players think and if you put all those together and remember being under the hardest pressure at Manchester United, I think he has got a good future in coaching." As Molde fans snap up their tickets for the new campaign, they could not agree more.
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