Manchester United v Cardiff City: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prepares for return to Old Trafford

Solskjaer said he had not spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson since taking over at Cardiff City

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The Independent Football

He was lying of course. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comment that his return to Manchester United was “just another game” was not one to be taken seriously by those who had gathered at the Hilton Hotel to hear the Cardiff manager talk of his return to a place where he spent a third of his life.

When, to several raised eyebrows, he accepted the offer to work for Vincent Tan, he checked the fixture list. Two of his first three league games would be in Manchester. He was theatrically booed at City, who were in the third tier of English football when he won United the European Cup. At Old Trafford, he is loved unconditionally.

Given that Solskjaer had meticulously planned his management career; coaching United’s reserves before returning to manage his former club, Molde, few envisaged a leap in the dark with Tan. His mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, has long warned of chairmen “who advise their managers on how free-kicks should be taken”.

Ferguson has spoken regularly to Solskjaer but this week the Norwegian stressed that although he may “pop up into the chairman’s suite” to see his old manager tonight, he has not talked to him since coming to Wales.

Tan may not give him security but Solskjaer has been handed something he was unlikely to receive if he followed up Aston Villa’s interest a couple of years ago – money. Kenwyne Jones and the Manchester United pairing of Wilfried Zaha and Fabio da Silva represent formidable reinforcements for a club bottom of the Premier League. And if Cardiff are relegated, it will be the Malaysian rather than the Norwegian who will shoulder the blame.

Naturally, like many of Ferguson’s former players, Solskjaer has imagined himself in the home dug-out at Old Trafford. When the Manchester Evening News asked him straight whether he wanted the United job, Solskjaer laughed and deflected the question with the observation that he would be damned if he said yes and damned if he denied it.

“I have always had a great relationship with Manchester United’s fans,” he said. “Back in Norway, when we’ve been watching United games over the years, I’ve nudged the kids and said: ‘They are still singing about your dad.’

“I am not that emotional a man so it is hard to say how I will feel. You never know. Sometimes, it just catches you, doesn’t it? Like when you do your wedding speech.”