ON the weekend he was appointed Manchester United’s permanent manager, SunSport travelled to Kristiansund – a Norwegian city with a population a third of the size of Old Trafford – to learn how a small boy from this corner of the world won the biggest job in English football.
Over three days we learnt how Solskjaer and his family are still a massive part of the community and how nobody here will stand to hear a bad word said against the local lad done good.
SunSport visited Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hometown of Kristiansund in Norway[/caption]
NOBODY in Kristiansund wanted to miss this game – even the Liverpool fans begrudgingly admire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer round here.
The streets and shops were empty by the time Manchester United kicked-off against Watford, with locals rushing home and packing into bars to watch the city’s most famous son.
His face is regularly on the front and back of the local newspaper and they even changed their version of the Hollywood sign to read ’20 Legend’.
And it’s not just because the United boss put this town on the map – it’s because everyone knows Ole Gunnar and the Solskjaers, most of whom still live here, like close friends.
Although Solskjaer won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, scored a famous winner in the Champions League final and is now manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world, he has never had any ego.
GUNNAR BE BEST
Solskjaer was 19 when he decided he wanted to be one of the best footballers Norway has ever produced.
Before then, the fair-haired and freckled teen was clearly the best player in his home town, the small fishing city of Kristiansund, scoring nine goals in one game and 14 in another for local club Clausenengen.
But Kristiansund’s total population is just 25,000, a third of the capacity of Old Trafford, where Solskjaer now finds himself permanent manager.
As a youngster, the United boss helped Clausenengen reach the second division of Norwegian football before leaving for Molde at 21.
A handful of players from this close-knit, wind-swept town have made the step to the top flight and won international caps.
Solskjaer has been named permanent boss of Manchester United after starring as caretaker[/caption]
To score a winning goal in a Champions League final for one of the biggest clubs in world football, and then manage that same team, is a journey none are likely to make again.
Jan Trygve Pedersen is a former team-mate who is now in charge of Clausenengen, a club that trains 400 local kids.
Two of Solskjaer’s three kids, his youngest son and daughter, play at the club, while his eldest has just left – to join Kristiansund BK, the relatively new professional club that finished fifth in the Norwegian top flight last season.
Noah is expected to play in the reserves this season but will likely spend time training with the pros.
‘TOOK BIG STEP’
Standing by an artificial pitch where a kids’ tournament is being held, Pedersen tells SunSport: “Ole Gunnar was a late starter.
“He was a small kid until he started to grow at 18.
“When he was 19, something happened and he took a big step in our club.
“He became focused to be the best, he trained a lot and on specific things. He had that [desire].”
Solskjaer had always been an athletic child who excelled in all sports – except one.
His father, Oivind, had been Norway’s Greco-Roman wrestling champion for six years between 1966 and 1971 and had competed at European level and the World Wrestling Championships in 1970.
Jan Trygve Pedersen played football against Solskjaer as a teenager and now Clausenengen FK in Kristinsund[/caption]
Solskjaer, aged 16, playing for Clausenengen FK in Kristinsund[/caption]
Solskjaer Sr introduced Ole Gunnar to the sport when he was eight – but as Solskjaer would later admit, he wasn’t very good and hated being “tossed around” by bigger boys.
“His father took him to the wrestling arena and he tried the sport, but it didn’t suit him. He was small for his age,” Frank Olsen laughs as he recalls a young Ole’s attempts at wrestling.
Sat at a cafe where he and his friends meet to drink coffee and share news every Friday, Frank is a typical Kristiansund resident.
Everyone has a connection to Ole Gunnar and the Solskjaers, everyone has a tale about the local boy done good and everyone adores the city’s most famous son.
BOY DONE GOOD
Looking out of his kitchen window with a coffee and cigarette, Yngve Johansen recalls his time teaching Solskjaer at the Dalabrekka primary school.
“I had him from 1980 to 1986, in gymnastics,” the retired teacher says, “He was quiet. He was not the kind of person to say: ‘Here I am.’”
Solskjaer would always carry a ball under his arm and spent hours kicking it against a wall.
Johansen says that even at that age he had to stack the odds against Solskjaer as he was clearly much better than his classmates.
“We only had 13 boys in the class. Whenever we played, I had to regulate it because Ole was so good.
“In one competition we had three teams, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham.
“I had Ole Gunnar playing for United. Guess who was the team’s star…”
This is the Norwegian home in which Man United’s new manager grew up[/caption]
Kristiansund has its very own Hollywood sign, sitting on a cliff overlooking the city.
When Solskjaer was named interim boss in December, the sign was changed to that famous Old Trafford banner: ’20 Legend’.
The United boss is a massive part of the community.
His sister lives in his childhood home and you can see the house he has bought his parents from the driveway.
His wife, who met Solskjaer while she also played football at Clausenengen, and their three children still live in the city.
Locals say that Solskjaer is “normal” and “relaxed” around town, he will chat at the supermarket and ask after friends.
Younger fans will stop him for pictures and autographs and he always has time.
He does not act like a superstar and no one treats him like one.
While he was manager of Molde, Solskjaer lived in Kristiansund and commuted an hour each way for his day job.
After returning from work, he would drop in on his kids to help with their football training sessions.
“He is a big inspiration for them,” says Stig Flemmen, another coach on Ole’s impact on the youngsters.
Yngve Johnsen was Solskjaer’s PE teacher during his school days[/caption]
Norwegian football magazine article about Solskjaer and the Clausenengen success[/caption]
Solskjaer’s hometown of Kristiansund is a fishing base on the western coast of Norway[/caption]
“He makes it possible, to come from a small place and go to the big stage.”
Flemmen, a Manchester United fan who played for Solskjaer’s “big rivals” growing up, knows first hand how it feels to be put to the sword by the striker.
Solskjaer was their “main man” who would “score all the goals” in matches between the two sides.
“We mostly lost by one or two goals and it was always him,” he says.
But Solskjaer’s success in the dugout isn’t a surprise, he “always” had the characteristics to be a top manager.
“He’s always down to Earth – he’s just a normal guy,” says Flemmen.
“He’s a really fantastic person and he knows the United DNA.
“It’s unbelievable that he’s come from Kristiansund to one of the toughest jobs in the world. It’s fantastic for us who know him, we’re very proud of it.”
LATEST MAN UNITED NEWS
Solskjaer “always” had the characteristics to be a top manager.
“It’s the person. He always respects every player and person he meets, he has no ego.
“That’s probably why he can handle players like [Paul] Pogba.”
In the main reception at Clausenengen there is a large framed picture of a young boy, next to a picture of Solskjaer’s famous celebration from the Nou Camp in 1999.
It reads: ‘The dream can be real.’
For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it certainly has been.