No substitute for Solskjaer

The striker's impact at Old Trafford was immediate with a debut goal and 18 more followed as United won the English Premier League title in his first season, writes Andy Hampson.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, popular and prolific Manchester United forward, is now established back in the side after three years of injury problems.

Solskjaer hit the heights — and earned his place in United folklore — by helping the club to Champions League glory in 1999 but was a relatively unknown player when he joined the Red Devils three years earlier.

Born in Kristiansund, Norway, Solskjaer began his career with Third Division Clausenegen FK before moving to Norwegian Premier League side Molde in 1995. He made his mark there with 31 goals in just 42 appearances and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson decided to take a GBP1.5 million gamble on him when he missed out on signing England star Alan Shearer.

His impact at Old Trafford was immediate with a debut goal and 18 more followed as United won the English Premier League title in his first season.

His second season was an indifferent one due to injury but he chose to stay at the club, despite the signing of Dwight Yorke to take his place when Tottenham made a GBP5.5 million offer.

He had to settle for a place on the bench in most games but the decision paid incredible dividends as United enjoyed the most successful season in their history in 1998-99, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Solskjaer became known as the `super sub' after a series of brilliant cameo appearances from the bench. One of them saw him rattle in four goals in the last 13 minutes of an 8-1 win against Nottingham Forest, another eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup and his most famous stunned Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

He netted another 15 goals the following season in spite of limited opportunities, but once again he showed no interest in leaving when other clubs enquired.

He began to start regularly again in 2001-02 alongside new signing Ruud van Nistelrooy as the once formidable Yorke-Andy Cole partnership began to fade. Chances were again at a premium in 2002-03 as Ferguson often opted to play Van Nistelrooy as a lone striker but Solskjaer showed his versatility with some fine performances on the right wing and ended the season with 17 goals.

Since then, Solskjaer's career has appeared to be one long struggle against injury yet the club have kept faith in him. He has finally emerged as a fully-fit striker once again in 2006-07, and although he may never recover the potency of old, he has shown he still has an eye for goal. The club remain behind him and he is contracted until 2008.

As an international, Solskjaer was a member of the Norway squads for the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. His injury nightmares began in the 2003-04 season when he suffered a knee injury in September that required an operation. He missed five months of the campaign and managed just one goal.

His problems got worse as he suffered further damage to his knee in the summer of 2004 and was ruled out for over a year. He finally returned to action in January 2006 but broke his cheekbone in an accidental collision in a match against Middlesbrough soon after and missed most of the remaining season.

He was at least fit to spend a full pre-season with United and is now a regular member of the squad once again. He scored his first goal in over three years against Charlton in August.

Solskjaer is married to Silje, with whom he has two children, son Noah (six) and daughter Karna (three). He recently admitted he is not Noah's favourite player — United team-mate Wayne Rooney is. When a child himself, Solskjaer trained as a wrestler as his father was once national champion. Footballing-wise, he grew up as a Liverpool fan.

He drives a luxury Audi Q7, a large SUV that will have set him back close to GBP100,000. It has three rows of seats, a six-speed automatic transmission and hits a top speed of 142mph.

FACTFILE Name: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Position: Striker Club: Manchester United DOB: 26/02/1973 Norway Caps: 64 Norway Goals: 23 Norway debut: v Jamaica, November 1995 Moment to remember

Solskjaer will forever be remembered for the goal which won his team the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona. United looked beaten as they headed into injury time a goal down but Teddy Sheringham scored a dramatic equaliser. There was even greater drama to come, however, as Solskjaer, an 81st-minute substitute, pounced on a loose ball and fired home from close range.

Moment to forget

Solskjaer scored in United's 5-0 Champions League win over Panathinaikos in September 2003 but the game was to prove the start of the darkest period of his career. It was then that he first sustained the knee injury that would later require surgery.

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