When Molde FK play FC Basel 1893 in their second European tie of the season, the first leg of which takes place on Wednesday, Ole Gunnar Solskjær aims to do what mentor Sir Alex Ferguson failed to last term: eliminate the Swiss side from the UEFA Champions League.
Solskjær – who worked under long-serving Manchester United FC boss Sir Alex during 11 years as a player at Old Trafford – has a wealth of experience in the continent's premier club competition, famously poking in the winning goal in the 1999 final against FC Bayern München.
The ex-Norway forward now hopes some of this knowledge will rub off on his players, who defeated FK Ventspils 4-1 on aggregate in the second qualifying round, as they prepare for the Swiss champions – the team that vanquished United from this competition last winter, beating Sir Alex's men 2-1 at St. Jakob-Park on matchday six.
"We face formidable opponents, but the players have to believe it is possible to knock them out," said Solskjær, whose side host the first leg.
After retiring in August 2007, Solskjær was appointed reserve coach at United the following year. He hopes to use his contacts in Manchester to get a tactical insight into how Basel might line up. "I will phone them a few times in advance [of the tie]," added the 39-year-old, who also won six Premier League titles and two FA Cups with the Red Devils.
"There have been some changes at Basel since they met United, and their star player Xherdan Shaqiri has been sold [to Bayern]. I know their forwards [Marco] Streller and [Alexander] Frei well – good experienced footballers. I have played against them myself and know they are a handful for defenders."
By their lofty standards of 2011, this season has been a little disappointing for Molde, six points adrift of leaders Strømsgodset IF after 17 games; at this stage 12 months ago they were clear at the top of the Eliteserien and would remain there.
That his charges sit within touching distance of another championship, though, speaks volumes for the job Solskjær has done. His work has inevitably attracted interest from abroad, not least when he was in the frame to succeed Alex McLeish at Aston Villa FC earlier this summer.
"My aim is to stay at Molde for a few years at least," confirmed Solskjær. "This club is going places and I aim to cement Molde as a top team in Norway."
He has injury worries going into Wednesday's first leg, however. Right-back Joshua Gatt (thigh), key midfielder Magne Hoseth (groin) and forward Jo Inge Berget (ankle) have been struggling in recent weeks. "We hope to have all our players fit for the Basel tie," said Solskjær. "We need to be at full strength."
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