Solskjær’s Cardiff rev-ole-tion continues: Meet the new men pitted with keeping the club in the Premier League
Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær is set to announce the signings of former Molde players Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Mats Møller Dæhlie in the next 24 hours. As the new manager, players and backroom staff settle into the club and attempt to turn around Cardiff City’s fortunes at the bottom end of the Premier League, ViewFromTheStands looks at the men tasked with implementing this Norwegian revolution in South Wales…
As far as managerial spells go, winning the league title back-to-back – including the clubs first in their 100 year history – alongside lifting a domestic cup, is pretty much as good as it gets. That is exactly what highly-rated manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær achieved in his three year stint in charge of Molde FK, becoming somewhat of a hero along the way.
Now, in his return to the isles in which he tasted so much success as a player, Solskjær is aiming to turn Cardiff City from a club battling turmoil both on and off the pitch, into an established Premier League side – but first, he must keep his new side in the division.
In order to achieve that, the former Manchester United forward has turned to former players Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Mats Møller Dæhlie. It must be said, not a lot is known about these two men, other than the fact they are both known well by Solskjær.
Grainy Youtube footage puts across the image that these are players with potential, though perhaps not able to make it in the Premier League – alas much-maligned Andreas Cornelius, who has so far failed to adapt to life in English football.
Harsh, maybe, though what Cardiff need right now is a set of players who can push the club clear of trouble, before Solskjær can then plan – and implement – his own full-term rebuilding project.
So what do we know about the two men who are set to be announced officially in the coming days? Firstly, Dæhlie, as Norwegian journalist and Molde fan Erik Skavold Lystad tells ViewFromTheStands, is a player with “a touch unlike anyone else in the Norwegian top-flight.”
Dæhlie arrived at Molde from Manchester United’s reserve squad last summer, with the promise of first team football under former United Reserve team manager Solskjær. The 18-year-old made an immediate impact.
“His creativity and technique is very pleasing to watch,” Lystad said. “His lack of outright pace is compensated for with his smart movement and ability to keep the ball.
“At such a young age, we should expect great things from Dæhlie.”
Great things, indeed. As this is a player who has already represented his country at senior level and also captained Manchester United’s reserves- a team which included Adnan Janazaj, who is also touted for a promising future in the Premier League.
Reports suggested that Solskjær had targeted the youngster to compensate for Cardiff’s lack of a ball-keeping midfielder alongside record signing Gary Medel. In fact, besides Medel’s incredible 90% pass accuracy rate, fellow midfielders Peter Whittingham (80%), Kim Bo-Kyung (83%), Aron Gunnarsson (78%), Jordon Mutch (70%), Craig Noone (67%) and Don Cowie (83%), are struggling to retain possession in the middle of the field. The most damning aspect of this statistic being that the average pass range of said players is around 9 yards.
This is understandable to an extent; after all, you expect the likes of Noone, Kim and Mutch to force attacking moves and therefore lose the ball on various occassions. In Dæhlie, Ole Gunnar sees a player who can use his guile and vision to retain possession, whilst orchestrating moves.
Lystad confirms what the footage highlighted: the youngster lacks pace. Though “his lack of outright pace is compensated for with his smart movements and ability to keep hold of the ball.” Certainly a player Cardiff could do with to support the often isolated figure of Fraizer Campbell and, in recent games, Andreas Cornelius.
Solskjær is also keen to reunite – again – with Eikrem, whom he managed at both Manchester United and also Molde. Currently playing for Heerenveen in the Eredivisie – where he scored against Ajax earlier this season – Eikrem was taken back to his birthplace of Molde under Ole from Manchester to play his part in winning the clubs first league trophy in their 100 year history.
Many have questioned whether more ‘future talent’ is what is needed in the face of a relegation battle, though the 23-year-old is no stranger to proving people wrong. As a youngster, Eikrem was always seen as a future star.
“He is a local Molde boy,” Lystad reminisced. “I remember him playing football as a kid. He always played for the age groups above him – and has long been regarded as a huge talent.
“He had a central role to play as the club took their first two Premier League championships ever in 2011 and 2012.”
Like Dæhlie, he may well have made the breakthrough at Old Trafford had he remained, with former assistant manager Rene Meulesteen recently stating: “I regret Magnus never got a chance in the United first team. [Sir Alex Ferguson] felt he wasn’t good enough. He can handle the Dutch top flight and get even better.”
So are these players ready to make the step up? “These are two highly rated players in Norway, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they managed to make a name for themselves in the Premier League.
“Anyone following Molde like myself will be sad to see such important first team players leave, but we also both expect and accept it. The club is doing very well business-wise with these deals, so it secures the club financially – in the long-term that is the most important aspect.”
As the club prepares to unveil the two new signings, there is an additional player being heavily touted with a move to South Wales: Ørjan Håskjold Nyland. Another of Solskjær’s old boys – there’s a theme emerging here – Nyland has been touted as a back-up to goalkeeper David Marshall.
The new Bluebirds boss interestingly opted to start with Marshall in goals against Newcastle in the FA Cup last weekend – certainly not a vote of confidence for Joe Lewis, who has been restricted to just three appearances in league and cup this season.
Despite Cardiff’s lowly position in the league table, Marshall has remained consistent throughout, and is currently the clubs most important player – this despite the fact former manager Malky Mackay broke the clubs transfer record three times in the summer.
It wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Scot depart in the summer should a bigger club come in for his services, so it may be time for Ole to begin the search for a future number one: enter stage Nyland.
The one-time-capped Norway international is a huge talent in his homeland at just 23 years of age. Nyland played a huge part in helping former club Hødd win the domestic cup in 2012, before stepping in to the Molde goalkeeping spot.
Nyland continued his impressive showings to guide Molde to the same trophy the following season. As luck would have it, Molde came up against Hødd en route to their final triumph, with Nyland saving two penalties in a shoot-out.
As Lystad confirms: “In one year, he has gone from being a great talent in the Championship, to winning two cup titles in a row, getting his national team debut and being linked with a Premier League club. Not bad.”
Of course, there will still be many doubters. Just last season, Southampton splashed out £3million for the services of Molde defender Vegard Forren – it’s fair to say this was a move that didn’t work out. Forren failed to make a single appearance for the club in his one season in England, before returning to Molde for half the price he was sold for.
Solskjær is no stranger to transfer coups such as this. In his three years at Molde, the baby-faced assassin brought in an array of players for little or no cost. Defender Even Hovland, valued at around £800,000 would be the highest transfer fee, alongside the £1.5million paid for Forren.
The man who spent 11 seasons at Old Trafford clearly learnt from the best, and he opted to turn to the youth to help Molde’s quest to, firstly win, and then recapture, the Tippeligaen.
It may not have come as a surprise to see Solskjær leave Molde this off-season, though it certainly shocked some to see him replace Malky Mackay at Cardiff earlier this month. Many close to the manager had reportedly ruled out a move due to highly publicised off-field matters, though Ole Gunnar relished the challenge of finally taking charge of a Premier League club. The time, he felt, was right.
Molde fans said goodbye to their former player and manager wishing him all the best, though perhaps a little surprised to see him join Cardiff City, rather than another more established side. “I don’t think anyone here expected the kind of challenge he would take on,” Lystad continued.
“The managerial position at West Bromwich Albion was open, and he was of course linked with that job. A very probably match, given Ole’s apparent wish to take the helm of a club whose administrative issues were limited – as was the case at Molde.
“The position at Tottenham Hotspur was also open for a time, and speculation of course started about Solskjær filling that role as well.
“But inbetween those, a story emerged that Cardiff was only millimetres away from sacking Mackay – when Ole’s name was initially dropped in the middle of that debate, it was quickly dismissed by most – if not all – because of how the club is run by Vincent Tan.
“Needless to say, Solskjær’s decision to take on this particular job came as a big surprise. Not just for the Molde fans, but for Norwegian football fans in general.”
Solskjær’s decision to take on this particular job came as a big surprise. Not just for the Molde fans, but for Norwegian football fans in general.
A surprise to join Cardiff it may have been and it was equally surprising to see highly rated backroom staff Mark Dempsey and Richard Hartis follow soon after. Englishman Dempsey – who was expected to remain at the club and replace Solskjær as manager – is another with Manchester United routes, and he will play a big part in the coming weeks as the trio look for a smooth transition. Hartis likewise will play his part, replacing James Hollman as goalkeeper coach.
Both have been greatly admired by Molde fans during their successful tenure at the club, with Hartis becoming renowned for his cheerful and charming half-time TV interviews, and Dempsey for his professional attitude and seemingly brilliant control of training sessions. Make no mistake; this is a team effort under Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Cardiff to revolutionise the club.
The Norwegian has certainly said all the right things until now and has clearly done his research on his new side – “I learnt about the ayatollah on my first day at the club, it’s important to know the history – and will now be hopeful that his new recruits can help fire Cardiff City to safety.
If not, “Ole is always welcome back home where he feels most welcome should Tan go absolutely bananas.” Don’t bet against it.