Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits he may have been “daft, or naïve, or stupid” to believe that Manchester United would come calling again, but had an exit clause inserted in his contract at Molde because he refused to give up on a dream job.
The Norwegian moved into management when hanging up his boots and always hoped that his career path would lead him back to Old Trafford.
A return to British football at Cardiff in 2014 was intended to be a stepping stone towards bigger and better things in the Premier League, but Solskjaer suffered relegation in a role he filled for just eight months.
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His reputation had to be rebuilt back in his homeland, with an opportunity at United eventually presenting itself when the Red Devils parted company with Jose Mourinho back in December 2018.
Solskjaer was initially handed the reins on an interim basis, but offered enough to earn a three-year contract and fulfil an ambition which many would have questioned when he inserted certain stipulations into his deal at Molde.
“I went to Cardiff because I thought there was potential for me to do well with them and then impress everyone at Man United because that has always been my drive,” Solskjaer told United’s official podcast.
“I wanted to come here to United. But it didn’t work out and I went back to Molde.
“When I signed a new contract there I always said ‘if Man United comes in for me, I want it in my contract that I can go on a free – if they come, if they call, if I am daft, or naive, or stupid enough to still believe that.’
“And of course nobody would think that after what I did with Cardiff. But I had that written into my contract and that was the only club.”
Upon taking the reins at United, Solskjaer made a move to bring in Mike Phelan as his assistant a top priority – with the assistance of former boss Sir Alex Ferguson sought out when making that appointment.
“I was trying to get hold of Mick Phelan because I knew I needed Mick with me,” 1999 Treble winner Solskjaer added on his early days back in Manchester.
“He was apparently doing a coaching session at a college up in Burnley and I couldn’t get hold of him. From the moment I got the call, I rang him, I rang him and I rang him.
“I rang the gaffer [Ferguson] first by the way and said ‘I have been offered this and what do you think?’. He said ‘yeah you will be fine’.
“I knew I needed Mick. I finally got hold him and he said yes. He had about 150 missed calls. The gaffer rang him as well and said ‘you need to speak to Ole’.
“I remember I was nervous walking in, for the first meeting with the players. They were sat there and waiting, of course. I spoke to Carras the day after the club rang and he told me what they had been doing in training. I had a good chat with him because Michael is a top, top guy.”
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Solskjaer also claims to have had a model for managing United in mind before he was handed the reins, saying: “Of course.
“I have always followed Man United since I signed for us and I had my own ideas about how this team should be playing, and who should be here and who shouldn’t be here.”