MANCHESTER United fans’ favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been confirmed as caretaker manager for the rest of the season.
Jose Mourinho’s two-and-a-half year reign was brought to an abrupt end yesterday, having overseen the club’s worst start to a Premier League season.
The Portuguese manager failed in terms of style as well as substance, with United announcing that an interim appointment would be made before bringing in a full-time replacement next summer.
The club quickly worked on bringing in former striker and reserve team boss Solskjaer from Molde, with the club announcing his appointment for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign within 24 hours of Mourinho’s exit.
Mike Phelan, Sir Alex Ferguson’s former right-hand man, will join him as first-team coach at Old Trafford, working alongside Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna.
Solskjaer scored 126 goals in 366 appearances for United between 1996 and 2007, including the Champions League final winner that sealed the treble in 1999.
The 45-year-old went on to become coach of the second string after retiring, before severing his 14-and-a-half year association with the club to take over at Molde for the first time at the start of 2011.
Solskjaer returned to Molde after an ill-fated time at the helm of Cardiff, who he saw relegated from the Premier League in 2014 — and will now take on in his first match as interim United boss.
‘Manchester United is in my heart and it’s brilliant to be coming back in this role,’ Solskjaer said upon being appointed.
‘I’m really looking forward to working with the very talented squad we have, the staff and everyone at the club.’
United were intent on bringing in someone who understood the club to replace Mourinho, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward delighted to announce Solskjaer’s temporary return.
‘Ole is a club legend with huge experience, both on the pitch and in coaching roles,’ Woodward said.
‘His history at Manchester United means he lives and breathes the culture here and everyone at the club is delighted to have him and Mike Phelan back.
‘We are confident they will unite the players and the fans as we head into the second half of the season.’
Molde have confirmed that Solskjaer will return to the club in May, with chief executive officer Oystein Neerland saying they are happy to ‘lend’ their coach to United.
‘That Manchester United ask Molde FK to lend the manager is by itself an event, and not least a statement of trust for both Ole Gunnar and Molde FK,’ Neerland said.
‘We are happy to lend Ole Gunnar, we wish both him and the club a success.
‘This is a big opportunity for Molde FK, we think it will be developing and helping to put Molde FK further on the football card.’
Solskjaer’s temporary move comes just weeks after signing a new contract with Molde until 2021.
Erling Moe will take over during the former striker’s spell in the Old Trafford dugout — a period in which he will miss the start of the Norwegian season, which kicks off at the end of March.
‘In football you never know what can happen,’ Solskjaer told Molde’s website. ‘We get proof of it time after time.
‘This is an opportunity I had to take. I am looking forward to leading Manchester United until the summer.
‘At the same time, I will follow closely what is happening here at home.’
Solskjaer thanked Molde for giving him the chance to work for ‘the world’s biggest club’ again, although he will be aware of the task he has on his hands.
United are an eye-watering 19 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool after Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Anfield, while the 11-point margin to the Champions League spots is another concern.
United have their worst points return after 17 matches in the Premier League era, while things behind the scenes have not been much better of late.
A period as unsettling as it has been disappointing saw concerns grow over the lack of progress in terms of results and style of play being made under Mourinho, leading to his abrupt departure on Tuesday morning.
He only signed a contract extension with United at the start of the year, but the club acted decisively rather than wait to see if they reached the Champions League, as with predecessors David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
United head to Solskjaer’s former club Cardiff on Saturday, before rounding off 2018 with home matches against Huddersfield and Bournemouth.