Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has retired at age 34 after battling knee injuries for four years. He had announced earlier that his intention was to intends to see out his current contract with United, which runs until June 2008.
His knee woes begain 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. Known as the “Baby-Faced Assassin”, Solskjaer looked to have turned the corner last season making over 30 appearances and scoring 11 goals, seven in 19 Premier League appearances. However, he suffered a setback in his recent attempt to recover from yet another knee injury and has decided to call it a day.
He can retire knowing that he accomplished as much as any player could ask for in club football. Manchester United’s chief executive David Gill said it best: “Ole has provided us all with some exceptional memories during his time here at the club. Nobody will ever forget his dramatic winner in Barcelona, but much more than that his dedication and professionalism make him one of the great role models in football.”
Solskjaer joined United from Molde for £1.5m in 1996 and the former Norway international has made 366 appearances for United, scoring 126 goals. He collected six league championship, two FA Cup medals and a Champions League medal with United.
He will always be remembered fondly by United fans for scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 1999 and a late, late winner against Liverpool to keep United’s FA Cup run alive in the magical season that produced The Treble.
The retirement of Solskjaer leaves United with only three established strikers – Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha and Carlos Tevez. Tevez is currently the only one fully match fit. Saha’s situation is particularly troubling for United as he has started only one Premier League match since January 1 and, although he should be fit to face Sunderland on Saturday, his persistent knee problems are causing concern, particularly in view of a possible call-up to the France squad next week for Euro 2008 qualifying matches.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been rumoured to be contemplating a move for Bolton’s Nicolas Anelka and Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov, although Berbatov has stated that he intends to stay at White Hart Lane. United have sold fellow strikers Alan Smith to Newcastle and Giuseppe Rossi to Villarreal during this transfer windown.
Solskjaer will remain at the club as a coach and as an official ambassador for the club, similar to the role Sir Bobby Charlton holds. Solskjaer has worked with United’s youth teams during his recent injury spells and he has indicated that a career in management would interest him when his playing days were over.