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Solskjaer, Woodward and those delays: Why Man Utd yet to name Ole permanent manager

COMMENT: Whoah! Whoah! Hold on there, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fans. Just cool your jets United supporters. This appointment isn't settled yet. There's a third (actually a third and fourth) party to consider before Manchester United make their caretaker manager a permanent thing...

To be fair to Ed Woodward, he's been getting it in the neck these past few weeks. As it became more and more clear that Solskjaer would be the man to lead the club next season, the delays coming from the boardroom to confirm the bleedin' obvious set the rumour mill ablaze. The vice-chairman could never be won over by the humble Norwegian, it was claimed. After Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, Woodward wanted another big name to take the club forward. Mauricio Pochettino was the priority. Not Solskjaer. And if it couldn't be the Tottenham manager, then it had to be Zinedine Zidane.

And all the while, Woodward was being pilloried. This desperate need for a big name. Despite the mountain of results and goodwill achieved by the current manager. Despite the opinion of Sir Alex Ferguson, no less. The United exec was going to put marketing and merchandise over the fundamentals. Or so it was believed...

Because the very accusations being thrown at Woodward right now. Of snubbing the achievements of Solskjaer. Of disregarding everything he's done for this club in these three months. Well, you could say the same about the exec's accusers.

Why? Well, what about this third party? 'Third party?' 'What third party?' We can hear some say. Of course, we're talking about Molde. The club that Solskjaer is actually contracted to. A three-year contract no less. And signed in the same December that Molde acquiesced and allowed their manager to fulfill a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

At the time, no-one - bar a few nutters - dared believe Solskjaer could do enough to earn the job long-term. But now? Now Molde have on their hands the hottest young manager in the game.

There may've been some talk of a cast iron option - and settled fee - to make it all permanent at season's end. But everything's negotiable. Especially when it comes to this industry. Molde are in possession of real, world class asset. £1.8m to have their coach to June. Another £7.2m to make it permanent. Not bad. Particularly for an Eliteserien manager. But we're not talking about the Solskjaer of Molde. It's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United. Of Paris. Of club and Premier League records. How much is that worth to the Norwegians?

Yes. Yes. They're not going to botch this for Solskjaer. But it'd be only right. For the club. For the fans. For Norwegian football in general. It'd only be right that Molde demand a higher compo fee than anything originally agreed with Woodward.

Øystein Neerland, Molde's chief exec, hinted they wouldn't be pushovers when the time comes to get around a table and thrash things out. Upon Solskjaer's claims on Monday that he wasn't sure if he his deal with Molde was still valid, Neerland was quick to react.

"Ole Gunnar is now employed at Manchester United and is scheduled to return to Molde after the season," he insisted, before adding that there would be no need to renegotiate the agreement originally signed in December.

You do have to wonder what prompted Solskjaer to volunteer such an opinion. Was it on instruction from Woodward? Just to test the waters and see how Molde react? Well, whatever the motivation, United have their answer. Molde won't be pushed around.

And why should they? As much as there's a deal to be done. United won't be the only option for Solskjaer after what he's achieved. With Marcelino's future at Valencia forever up for debate, you can just imagine their United-mad owner Peter Lim paying what it takes to get one his heroes to the Mestalla. And then there's Luciano Spalletti, Inter Milan and their internal connections to United. Again, with Suning and China involved, financially anything is possible. Sheer hypotheticals, of course. But no longer fantasy calcio. This isn't going to be as smooth as everyone expects.

And what of that fourth party? Well, again, it's a matter of Woodward having to negotiate Solskjaer's No2, Mike Phelan, out of his commitments to Central Coast Mariners. Phelan was to be their fulltime technical director. It was he who put the Aussie club and Usain Bolt together. Now he, like Solskjaer, will want to be working at Carrington next season. It's another deal for Woodward to navigate.

Solskjaer will want to keep his staff - which also includes Mark Dempsey - together.

"We have a good relationship. It has been fantastic coaching them with Kieran, Michael, Demps, Mick, Emilio (Alvarez)," said the manager this week in Paris. "We are a great team together. I think they (the players) enjoy us."

While Emilio Alvarez, Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna are tied down, the three December arrivals will require new contracts from June. So there is some work ahead for Woodward. Not least finding common ground with Molde.

Those delays which have had the rumours running wild could all be due to that third party reminding United they're still around.

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Chris Beattie
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