'Supersub' Solskjaer calls time on career

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The Independent Football

One of the great Premier League careers will come to a close today when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer announces his retirement from football after 11 years at Manchester United. The Norwegian international has finally succumbed to the knee injuries that have plagued him over the last four years.

Solskjaer, 34, last played as a substitute against Chelsea in the FA Cup final in May, his 366th United game during which he has scored 126 goals. Ironically for the man once known as a supersub – 150 United appearances have been off the bench – it is now that Sir Alex Ferguson needs a fit and sharp Solskjaer.

Solskjaer has coached United's youth teams during his long recent absences through injury and he has indicated that a career in management beckons when his playing days are over. However, in his latest contract with United there is a section that gives him an option to work as an "ambassador" for the club.

He is understood to be the first player to be offered such a deal and it reflects his standing with the club's fans. Famously the scorer of the winner against Bayern Munich for United in Barcelona in 1999 when they won the European Cup for the second time in the club's history, Solskjaer's decline has been sad and prolonged.

Last season he played 32 games and scored 11 goals in all competitions for United which was his most significant contribution since the 2002-2003 season. Unfortunately his injury problems began just when it seemed – after seven years – he was destined to become a first-choice player for United. David Beckham had been sold that summer after Ferguson judged him expendable because of Solskjaer's successful conversion to right midfield.

However, he hurt his knee against Charlton in September 2003 and, despite playing and scoring against Panathinaikos in the Champions League three days later, he was seriously injured. Solskjaer missed five months and, having returned to action in February, re-injured his knee the following summer. He missed the entire 2004-05 season and played only five games in 2005-06.

Injuries have prevented him from taking part in United's games this season and his announcement came after overwhelming medical advice that he will never reach the standards he once set as a player. Signed for £1.5m from Molde in Norway in 1996, he has proved one of Ferguson's most astute transfers.

The son of a professional wrestler in Norway, Solskjaer has proved enduringly popular with United fans who sang his name during the victory over Tottenham on Sunday. He leaves United with six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one Champions League medal and one Carling Cup.

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