Breaking the Molde

by Derek Wilson

After years spent in the shadows, Molde FK could be on the verge of a remarkable breakthrough in this season’s Tippeligaen.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is taking his baby steps in football management and seems to be doing an excellent job so far.  A magnificent 2-1 win at Valerenga in mid-week put them top of the table and though others have games in hand, Molde are showing the mental toughness required to be genuine title challengers.

The club may now be regular competitors in the top flight having only missed out for a couple of seasons since 1983 but producing actual success has proved altogether more difficult.  They have only two Norwegian Cups to their name and although a quirk of history awards the cup winners with the title of national champions, they have not yet won the league title which would give them this accolade for real.

In 2009 they produced a superb league campaign and finished runners-up to a magnificent Rosenborg team who lost just once all year – and that when the championship was already in the bag.  However, it was the cup which proved even more traumatic for Molde as they lost in the final to local rivals Aalesund in a penalty shoot-out – despite leading twice and playing against ten men for a huge chunk of the game.

The team failed to recover in 2010 and only a managerial change in autumn which saw the appointment of Uwe Rosler moved the club away from a messy battle against relegation.  Rosler then left and the board turned to former player and hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the start of the 2011 season.

Solskjaer may have been well-educated by managerial legend Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United but his first number one post initially seemed a step too far – his team were humbled 3-0 at newly promoted Sarpsborg on the opening day.  Consecutive draws in the next two games left the team with just a couple of points from the first three matches and few would have predicted what happened next.

A magnificent run of eight wins from 11 games sent the club shooting up the table to their current lofty position.  And while things still have a tendency to go spectacularly wrong when they don’t go right – witness a 5-0 thumping at Haugesund in May – the team has recovered from each of their recent three defeats with an excellent win in their next outing.

As with most top teams they are backed by a magnificent goalkeeper, in this case Espen Pettersen, who played through a bad ankle injury to produce a man of the match performance in the win at Valerenga.  There are plenty of goals at the other end with Davy Claude Angan being a magnificent winter addition from relegated Honefoss while Pape Pate Diouf is no stranger to scoring either.

The midfield trio is a fine combination of grit and skill with few teams elsewhere being able to match the likes of Daniel Haestad and Makhtar Thioune even before the beautiful creativity of Magne Hoseth is taken into consideration.  The defence is perhaps the weakness – they have conceded notably more than anyone else in the top five despite the best efforts of Pettersen – and it is worth questioning if the attack is continually able to make up for this shortfall.

The Molde fans may simply be pleased to be competitive again after a miserable 2010, even if they are still wondering just how far this team can go.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a winning mentality from his time and Old Trafford though and his eyes, quite rightly, will already be set on the ultimate prize.

3 Responses

  1. Brendan says:

    For Norwegian football, it’s good to see a story like Solskjær’s move back to Norway capture those externally. But the lack of appraisal, even recognition, for another man who has arrived in his home country this winter, Magnus Wolff Eikrem, is disconcerting; he has arguably been Molde’s best player this year and has not buckled under the pressure of having a system built around him. Hoset has been important and Thioune has shown flashes of his 2009 brilliance, but it’s been Eikrem who has ticked Molde along to the top of the table.

    But in saying that, the midfield has been imbalanced with the team being centric to Eikrem. It’s this that I’d blame Molde’s goals conceded rate on, not their fairly solid defence. The problem of running out of fit right backs and selling (or being near to selling) their left backs has compounded on that problem, but it is nothing good summer acquisitions can’t heal.

    Otherwise, yes, Molde fans should be more than happy with the results under Solskjær. I can’t see them winning – Tromsø already look like the champions-elect – but a medal would be better than what I had expected.

  2. Svein says:

    Actually Brendan, as a Molde FK supporter (not saying that you aren’t by the way) I can’t quite agree that young Wulff Eikrem has been the star of the team so far this season (we just went into summer-vacations with a 5-2 win against Aalesund yesterday by the way).

    There is no doubt that he shows talent and great potential, but he still has a way to go when it comes to not lowering the pace of the attacking game, as well as pulling his own weight defensively. When everything “clicks” for him he is a remarkable player, pinpointing 50m cross-passes as if it was the easiest thing in the world or accurately threading the ball through two lines of defenders with just the perfect pacing for the onrushing attacker; but he also has a tendency to completely “disappear” and not be seen for large periods of the match. Unfortunately, when this happens and he is seen it is then with a horrible loss of possession or a lack of enthusiasm in the defensive work.

    As such I feel that he still has a lot to learn from a veteran such as Magne Hoseth, but with that being said I am also without doubt that with a Manager like Solskjær and surrounded by team-mates such as the aforementioned Hoseth, Berg Hestad, Thioune he will not only become a even better player but also the natural successor of Hoseth and Berg Hestad, perhaps not only as the commanding player on the midfield but even as the team captain.

  3. alunvaughan says:

    It’s great to hear about how Ole is doing.
    Good to see that his bringing that winning mentality to Molde, after doing so well with United reserves.
    I feel he has the man management skills and football know-how to make a real success of himself as a manager.
    Personally I would love to see him take the hot seat at Old Trafford in the future.

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