BC-SOC--Man United-Solskjaer,2nd Ld-Writethru
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United hired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as its permanent manager on Thursday as a reward for leading the team to 14 wins in 19 games in his impressive interim spell.
The former United striker has turned United’s season around after replacing Jose Mourinho as coach on Dec. 19, leading the team into the Champions League quarterfinals and also reviving its bid for a top-four finish in the English Premier League.
More than that, he has the team playing in an attractive style while also lifting the gloom that lingered at the club in the final months of Mourinho’s tenure.
Solskjaer accepted a new three-year contract.
“This is the job that I always dreamed of doing,” he said, “and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long-term and hopefully deliver the continued success that our amazing fans deserve.”
When Solskaer was appointed on a temporary deal, United was sixth in the league and 11 points off fourth place — the last spot to gain automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League. Now United is in fifth place but only two points behind fourth-place Arsenal, after losing just one of its 13 league games under Solskjaer.
In the Champions League, United beat Paris Saint-Germain over two legs in the last 16 and next faces Barcelona.
“Since coming in as caretaker manager in December, the results Ole has delivered speak for themselves,” said Ed Woodward, United executive vice chairman. “More than just performances and results, Ole brings a wealth of experience, both as a player and as a coach, coupled with a desire to give young players their chance and a deep understanding of the culture of the club. This all means that he is the right person to take Manchester United forward.”
Solskajer said almost immediately that he wanted the United job on a full-time basis, having played for the English club from 1996-2007 and scored 126 goals in 266 appearances. His most famous goal was his late winner in the 1999 Champions League final.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was widely regarded as the front-runner to replace Mourinho, but United’s results under Solskjaer meant the Norwegian quickly became favorite. The team won its first eight games under Solskjaer and didn’t lose until its 12th game under him.
Solskajer can begin planning for the future as he looks to win the Premier League with United, which hasn’t been English champion since 2013, the last year of Alex Ferguson.
“From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club,” Solskjaer said. “It was an honor to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here. The last few months have been a fantastic experience.”
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