Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival as caretaker manager at Old Trafford may have been welcomed by Manchester United fans but it has left many in Cardiff scratching their heads.
The Norwegian’s only previous experience of senior English football came in an ill-fated spell with Cardiff in 2014, which saw the club relegated from the Premier League and Solskjaer then sacked as they got off to an equally poor start in the Championship.
Author Aled Blake, whose book ‘Bluebirds Reunited’ charts their relegation from the top flight and the significant rebuilding process needed to get them back up, said Solskjaer was out of his depth at Cardiff and argued there was no reason to believe it will be different with United.
“Cardiff City fans don’t remember his period in charge fondly at all,” Blake told Press Association Sport. “We were relegated by quite a big margin in the end and then in the Championship it was pretty woeful as well.
“He made several signings, many of whom he paid too much money for so we were saddled with an unbalanced squad of overpaid players. It took a good number of years to overcome that.”
Solskjaer arrived in Cardiff in January 2014, joining a club which had sacked Malky Mackay and accused him of sending discriminatory text messages, while fan discontent was still running high over owner Vincent Tan’s decision to change the club’s colours from blue to red.
Blake said there was plenty of blame to go around, but Solskjaer was still deserving of a significant share.
“The red colour thing was a massive albatross around the club’s neck at the time and there was the whole furore over Mackay’s sacking,” he said. “A lot of fans were bitter about Vincent Tan’s ownership and Solskjaer was the icing on the cake of quite a rotten time.
“I don’t know who could have turned the club around but it certainly wasn’t him.”
Solskjaer’s first game in charge of United will take him back to Cardiff on Saturday. Tim Murphy, who sits on the board of the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust, expects him to get a decent reception but like Blake holds no fond memories of his time in charge.
“It did surprise me,” he said of Solskjaer’s appointment. “He came to Cardiff with great fanfare because of his United heroics but never lived up to our expectations. He was hamstrung by the signings he made and never managed to mould a team. He changed formation all too often.
“I want to give him a warm reception because he was a favourite with the fans in terms of his personality. He just didn’t have the results.”
United will hope Solskjaer has learned his lessons from his time at Cardiff, and he goes into a very different situation at Old Trafford. Relegation is no concern and he inherits a squad with some world-class players.
Still, Blake believes United fans may want to temper their expectations for how far Solskjaer can take them.
“I don’t think it will be a disaster because I don’t think it can get much worse for them in the context of their history,” he said. “He’s probably more wise to the world now and knows what he’s getting in for.
“There’s a huge fondness for him at United and he’s in a better place to do that job now than he was to do the Cardiff job but, at the same time, I can’t see too many positives for United under him.
“I know it’s a temporary solution but I’m not really sure he’ll turn things around to the extent they might want. He’s a popular appointment because he was such a popular player but football-wise, I’m not sure he’s got the capacity to manage a club like Manchester United.”