Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opens talks with Aston Villa about succeeding Alex McLeish


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The Independent Football

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received the support of a trio of fellow former Norway internationals as he today starts talks on becoming Aston Villa's new manager.

Collected from his home town of Kristiansund in Villa owner Randy Lerner's private jet, Solskjaer was joined on the flight by wife Silje.

After Lerner sacked Alex McLeish on Monday after a wretched 11 months in charge, Solskjaer is seemingly seen by the owner as the young, progressive manager to take Villa forward.

After 11 seasons as a player with Manchester United and a further two and a half years at Old Trafford as reserve team manager, the 39-year-old returned to Molde in 2010 after spending two years at the club as a player in the mid-1990s.

Last October, at the end of his first season in charge, Solskjaer guided Molde to their first Norwegian League title in their 100-year history.

Villa and Solskjaer are now in talks, as confirmed by Molde in a club statement.

"Molde Football Club is aware of interest and contact from Aston Villa, and is aware that Aston Villa and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are talking together," it read.

Despite Solskjaer's lack of managerial experience, Jan-Aage Fjortoft, Erik Thorstvedt and John Carew all feel he would be a success at Villa Park.

Former Swindon and Middlesbrough striker Fjortoft, now a television presenter, said: "Every Villa supporter will ask, 'Is he too inexperienced?', and if they lose a game, people will say, 'Well, he is inexperienced'.

"But I've seen so many useless managers in English football, then and now, so Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have no problem coping with that, given the knowledge, the experience he has from the game."

Speaking on Sky Sports News, Fjortoft added: "When he came to Norway, to move out of the Manchester United bubble, for a lot of people that would have been tough because you are at your own club.

"But Ole has been a great leader for Molde. He always supports his team, and is clear in the demands of his players.

"He won't be Alex Ferguson, he will be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but very influenced by the life he has had at Manchester United.

"He has always been a learner, and he will be a great, great manager."

Thorstvedt, Tottenham goalkeeper from 1989-1996, appreciates Villa would be taking a gamble on someone with only 18 months' experience as a league manager.

The 49-year-old said: "It's a surprise he is possibly going to be offered such a big job so early.

"But he is very clever, really sensible, and what he says always makes sense.

"He would possibly have thought, 'This is too early for me and I need more experience before I take on a big job like Villa'.

"But if he feels he is ready, then go for it. It's a great chance at a club that was almost relegated this season.

"So maybe the expectations aren't that big and the upside is massive if he can succeed.

"He's played attractive, fluent, passing football in Norway, and it's a Villa side that are a bit jaded, in a need of an energy injection.

"I think he can do that because of his personality and the style of football he wants to play."

The downside, however, is Solskjaer's long-stated ambition to one day manage United, which would imply that Villa would be nothing more than a stepping stone.

Thorstvedt added: "I know his dream is to end up managing Manchester United one day, but he has to take it step by step.

"But if he can take on Villa and do well, the road to Man United will be a lot quicker than he might have anticipated."

Former Villa star Carew believes Solskjaer is an ideal candidate to lead the midlands club out of the doldrums.

Carew, who spent four years with Villa, scoring 52 goals in 133 appearances, said: "This would be a fantastic job for Ole Gunnar to have.

"He has the mentality and respect from players he needs to succeed, and I think Villa will work really well under his leadership.

"Everything suggests Solskjaer can have a great managerial career in England."

Villa fans have so far welcomed the link to Solskjaer, with 86% from nearly 600 votes on one internet forum giving their approval.