LONDON: Manchester United appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the club’s permanent manager on a three-year contract on Thursday following a highly successful caretaker spell in charge.
The Norwegian, 46, has inspired a dramatic revival of United’s fortunes since taking over from the sacked Jose Mourinho in December, winning 14 of his 19 games and leading the Red Devils to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Solskjaer, who scored 126 goals in 366 appearances for United, was already a hero to fans as the man who scored the stoppage-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final to complete a historic treble.
In his short spell in charge he has lifted United back into contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League and is preparing for a mouthwatering Champions League clash against Barcelona next month.
“From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club,” Solskjaer said in a statement on United’s website. “It was an honour to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here.
“The last few months have been a fantastic experience and I want to thank all of the coaches, players and staff for the work we’ve done so far.
“This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long-term and hopefully deliver the continued success that our amazing fans deserve.”
After Mourinho was sacked following a 3-1 loss to Liverpool on December 16, Molde boss Solskjaer was given the task of reviving United’s flagging fortunes but was expected to return to the Norwegian club after his caretaker spell.
– Pogba transformed –
At that stage Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was the firm favourite for the permanent Old Trafford hotseat but Solskjaer forced the hand of Manchester United hierarchy by sheer weight of results, becoming the first United manager to win his first six league games.
Solskjaer also helped cleanse the toxic atmosphere at United, where Mourinho had fallen out with a number of key players.
France World Cup winner Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford in particular have thrived under Solskjaer, who has been credited with restoring an attacking verve missing under a succession of managers.
United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: “More than just performances and results, Ole brings a wealth of experience, both as a player and as a coach, coupled with a desire to give young players their chance and a deep understanding of the culture of the club.”
Solskjaer spent 11 seasons at Old Trafford as a player under Alex Ferguson, winning six Premier League titles and the 1999 Champions League trophy.
On the pitch, the Norwegian, nicknamed the “Baby-faced Assassin”, became an embodiment of United’s never-say-die spirit, often scoring late goals when points or trophies looked to have been lost.
Solskjaer lost his battle with persistent knee problems in 2007 before becoming the club’s reserve-team manager.
He won two league titles during a first managerial spell at Molde, but struggled badly during a brief stint at Cardiff in 2014.
When he took over as interim boss at Old Trafford, the club were languishing in sixth place in the Premier League, 11 points off the top four.
But they have lost just once in the league since then and are now in fifth place, just two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, with eight games remaining in the season.
The highlight of his reign so far was a dramatic 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 in the Champions League, with United overturning a 2-0 first-leg defeat to reach the quarter-finals on away goals.
Rashford on Thursday posted an image of himself and Solskjaer on Instagram with the caption: “Congrats boss.”
Former United defender Gary Neville welcomed the appointment and urged the club to back the new full-time boss financially.
“I’m delighted for Ole,” Neville tweeted. “I didn’t think this would happen when he was appointed. However the results and spirit in the club have been incredible since he arrived and he deserves it. He now needs support in the transfer market in terms of finance and the right resource!”