Coaches on the move

Manchester United nabs a Norwegian, as the top Eliteserien teams shuffle managers around

Rosenborg - Eirik Horneland

Photo: Morten Asbjørnsen / VG
Eirik Horneland is the new manager at Rosenborg after the Trondheim team wooed him from Haugesund.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

Rosenborg and Molde, Norway’s two best soccer teams the last couple of seasons, have both had an exciting fall when it comes to figuring out who will be their head manager heading into the 2019 season—albeit for two very different reasons.

For Rosenborg, the managerial crisis started on July 19, with the sacking of successful coach Kåre Ingebrigtsen and assistant Erik Hoftun. Ingebrigtsen had won the league three times in a row and the cup two times. The Rosenborg board didn’t find the clubs’ development over the last year quite good enough, so they decided the club needed a change. The fact that Rosenborg had failed to qualify for the Champions League under Ingebrigtsen is seen as one of the main reasons for Ingebrigtsen’s termination.

The surprising decision sparked outrage from fans and players alike and has been heavily debated to this day, maybe most of all because of the terrible timing.

The whole thing culminated Jan. 23 with a settlement, after Ingebrigtsen and Hoftun sued the club for wrongful termination.

Academy Director Rini Coolen from The Netherlands was promoted to head coach for the rest of the season after Ingebrigtsen’s termination. The Dutchman did more than what was expected of him and took home both the league and the cup gold—Rosenborg’s third double in four years.

Despite Coolen’s success, he was not considered as a permanent replacement. In December, it was leaked to the press that Rosenborg had signed Haugesund Football Club’s head coach, Eirik Horneland. Horneland, however, had misunderstood his contract with Haugesund and was under the impression that he would be allowed to leave the club if he got an offer from a bigger club. That turned out not be the case.

Haugesund didn’t want to let their star manager go without a fight (or at least a fair compensation) and went to the newspapers, calling Rosenborg’s behavior “both shameless and fraudulent.”

The whole thing ended in early January with Horneland presented as Rosenborg’s new head manager, and Haugesund Football Club’s wallet a couple million NOK thicker.

The question now is, will Rosenborg, with all the noise and disruptions, be able to perform at the level their fans want them to in 2019?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Photo: David Klein / VG
Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Manchester United interim manager, was a legendary player for ManU and managed Molde in Eliteserien last season. As of Jan. 22, ManU was 7-0 with him at the helm.

Molde’s problems, however, are not really problems at all. Not for their manager, at least. But they might have to look for a new manager this spring anyway. Molde’s manager, former Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær, was hired as a manager for the Manchester club on Dec. 19 until the end of the season, after the firing of Portuguese José Mourinho.

Solskjær’s hiring was initially meant as a temporary thing, strictly to the end of the season. After winning his first seven games (as of Jan. 22), both fans and experts are beginning to see him as a candidate for the position as permanent manager.

Manchester United has been a shadow of its old self this season, playing boring defensive football, but with Solskjær at the helm, the “biggest football club in the world” is beginning to look like their fans expect. Players that have looked tired and bored are suddenly playing at their best again, and the club’s attacking mentality is back. Earlier in the season, the team had looked like they were just trying not to lose, but now, under Solskjær, they really want to win. They run more, they score more, they smile more.

World-class players like Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are back on form and have scored more goals in the seven games under Solskjær than the rest of the season under Mourinho.

Daily Mail expert Oliver Holt writes: “Why not give Solskjaer the job on a permanent basis? Why not let him build on the results he has already achieved? Why not let him continue the process of rebuilding and repairing the club? Solskjær has done the job as if he was born for it. There’s an energy in the club now that hasn’t been there for many years. Why throw it away? Solskjær is very untested, but the last three managers had plenty of experience and… had won many trophies. It didn’t help them much.”

So Solskjær’s success might be Molde’s doom, since replacing Solskjær will be very, very difficult, maybe impossible.

This article originally appeared in the February 8, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.