Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was named interim Manchester United manager last December and took the full position in March. In the few months he has been in charge there have been extreme highs and painful lows.
As a former player of the club, he isn’t the first footballer to return to a team as a manager.
Two other recent examples at the top level are Roberto Di Matteo and Zinedine Zidane.
Di Matteo and Zidane made their mark at their clubs, but how will Solskjaer’s time in charge of United compare?
Roberto Di Matteo
The first of the three to make a return to their former club as manager was Di Matteo. He took over at Chelsea in the middle of the 11/12 season.
After the sacking of André Villas-Boas in March, Di Matteo was appointed interim manager. The club was struggling in the Premier League, sitting in fifth place, with over half the season gone.
Additionally, Chelsea had lost their first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie away to Napoli 3-1.
Di Matteo faced the tall task of turning the Blues’ fortunes around. Getting into the top four and fighting for the FA Cup as well as the Champions League were surely his goals.
Beginning away to Birmingham in the Cup, the Italian led Chelsea to a 2-0 away win on his debut. A good start, but a game he was expected to win. Then they beat Stoke City at home, building momentum before their critical second leg against Napoli.
Facing the 3-1 deficit, the team managed to win 4-1 in extra time. This game was where heads turned. This game turned the lacklustre season Chelsea had been heading towards into a season fans will hold close to their hearts.
That night in Munich
Fast-forward to May 19, 2012, and Chelsea celebrated the most famous win in their history.
The Blues had their eyes on a bigger prize after claiming the FA Cup: The UEFA Champions League.
Following their surprising comeback against Napoli, Chelsea beat Benfica in the quarterfinals 3-1 on aggregate. Then the Blues were drawn against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Largely unexpectedly, Chelsea beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate. The result sent shockwaves throughout Europe and would set up a final against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Once again, Chelsea were the underdogs. All seemed to be lost when Thomas Müller gave Bayern the lead in the 83rd minute. But in the 88th minute, Didier Drogba scored from their first and only corner of the match.
Extra time. Arjen Robben has his penalty saved by Petr Cech.
Penalties. Chelsea wins 4-3 on penalties with who else but Drogba scoring the winning spot-kick.
That night, Di Matteo wrote his name into Chelsea folklore. He’ll always be remembered as the manager who led them to their first and only Champions League win.
Perhaps predictably, this earned him a permanent contract at the club.
However, the next season didn’t go to plan. The Blues had by that point essentially failed to qualify for the Round of 16 of the Champions League from a group containing Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Nordsjælland.
It became the first, and still the only time, that a defending champions failed to advance from the group stage.
In the league, they were doing quite well as they sat in third place, four points off the top. Nonetheless, Di Matteo was relieved of his position at the club.
On this day in 2012, Roberto Di Matteo was sacked by Chelsea. ➡🚪
Two trophies in eight months wasn’t too bad. 😏 pic.twitter.com/ORQf5o0nqD
— AskFans (@AskFansUK) November 21, 2018
A few years later, one of the greats of football also became manager of a former club. Largely remembered for his time playing for Real Madrid, Zidane took the helm after Rafael Benitez was sacked.
Promoting Zidane, who was managing the Castilla side, was seen as a risk, but it definitely paid off.
The World Cup winner took over Los Blancos who were third in La Liga and into the Round of 16 of the Champions League. Just four points off top spot, the club wasn’t in a bad position at all. The only real blemish for the season so far had been their elimination from the Copa del Rey due to the use of an illegible player.
What Zizou went on to accomplish was stellar to say the least. In La Liga, he led the team to second place — a mere a point behind eventual champions Barcelona. What was most impressive was what happened in Europe.
Success in Europe
Real Madrid overcame Roma, Wolfsburg, and Manchester City before beating city rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2016 Champions League final.
The following season, Zidane and Real Madrid did what had never been done before. They defended their Champions League crown and won the competition back to back. Additionally, they went one better in La Liga and claimed the title.
Zidane then won a third successive UCL, improving on his already unprecedented start to management.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 21, 2018
Recalling that Zidane had no previous experience as a first team manager, his incredible achievements are all the more astonishing.
Consequentially, he was able to leave the club on his own terms after the end of the 17/18 season.
However, the club have struggled since his departure, already hiring and replacing two managers.
Now back in charge of Los Merengues, it is yet to be seen how Zidane will perform this time around. What is certain, regardless of how he does in his second stint in charge, is that he will always be held in the highest regards at Real Madrid for both his contributions as a player and as a manager.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
José Mourinho was sacked as Manchester United manager midway through the season. His replacement came in the form of Solskjaer who came in on managerial loan from Molde.
The Norwegian was offered a three-year contract after a great start great start as caretaker manager.
Manchester United won their first eight games under Solskjaer and lost just once in 17 games. That loss was against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League Round of 16, which they later overcame in dramatic fashion in the second leg.
Since then, the club has won just twice in the eleven games, with their most recent stumble coming at bottom of the table Huddersfield.
Questions are now being raised over whether or not Solskjaer was the right appointment for the Red Devils.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it “hurts” after his Man Utd side saw their top four hopes come to an end.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 5, 2019
How will Solskjaer be remembered?
When the name “Roberto Di Matteo” is heard what may come to mind is his goal in the FA Cup final for Chelsea or the success he had as Blues’ manager.
When it comes to Zidane, his name evokes memories of his time as a player for France, Real Madrid, and Juventus, but now title celebrations as Real Madrid manager also come to mind.
United fans will always fondly remember the comeback against PSG, but Solskjaer’s tenure is in danger of being one which had a temporarily positive start before quickly fading away. into similar.
Di Matteo had short-term success, sure, but he won two trophies including the Champions League which Chelsea had never won. Plus, most will agree his sacking was rather harsh.
Zidane’s first stint at Real Madrid exceeded any expectations. He won a total of nine trophies in three seasons and was able to leave at his own terms. He has since returned, but however his managerial record changes, his legendary status within the game won’t be tarnished.
Will Solskjaer provide the short-term success Di Matteo did?
Can he hit the levels of Zidane?
Or will Solskjaer fail, and like other Red Devils managers since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, be sacked before his contract is up?
Speculation suggests Solskjaer may not be at the club for much longer. He will have to turn things around if he wants to be deemed a success as Di Matteo and Zidane have at their former clubs.