Less than 24 hours after securing a Champions League second qualifying round rematch with Celtic, Rosenborg stunned Norwegian football when they sacked head coach Kare Ingebrigsten.
The 52-year-old former Manchester City midfielder, who had led the Trondheim club to five major domestic honours since his appointment in 2014, was informed of the decision yesterday morning.
Ingebrigtsen is being replaced by Dutch coach Rini Coolen, who joined Rosenborg as academy director earlier this year, with immediate effect. Coolen’s first match in charge will be the first leg of the tie against Celtic in Glasgow next Wednesday night.
Rosenborg, currently two points behind Brann at the top of their domestic league at the halfway point of the 2018 campaign, needed a stoppage-time penalty by Danish international and former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner to edge past Icelandic champions Valur 3-2 on aggregate in their first qualifying round tie on Wednesday night.
They are some way short of being the formidable European force they were when they reached the Champions League group stage 11 times in 12 seasons from 1995 to 2007. But their domestic dominance had been restored since Ingebrigtsen’s arrival four years ago.
The style of play and level of some of Rosenborg’s performances this year had attracted criticism, however, and chairman Ivar Koteng decided a change was needed.
“After considering this for some time, we decided that Kare had to go,” said Koteng at a hastily-convened press conference last night.
“Despite some good results, we feel the development of the club has not been good enough. We want to take advantage of the good financial position we are in and we concluded that Kare had to leave.”
New coach Coolen, 51, had a long playing career as a top-flight defender in Dutch football before moving into coaching where his travels have included stints in charge of Australian club Adelaide United and the Aruba national team.
He admitted his surprise at the decision to dismiss Ingebrigtsen but is ready to embrace the challenge offered to him.
“I came here to work in the academy and I was enjoying that job,” said Coolen. “I got to know Kare well and he is a gentleman. But in football, if you are a head coach, you know the time comes when you move on.
“It’s not an easy situation and if you had a choice, your first game in charge would not be in the Champions League against Celtic. But that’s how it is and we have to deal with it. I’ve watched the first team play, I know the players and tomorrow we will start to get ready for Celtic.”
Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, speaking before the news of Ingebrigtsen’s departure, has warned his team-mates that they face another testing tie against Rosenborg.
Ajer, having played in the goalless first leg of the second qualifying round tie between the clubs in Glasgow last year, was not even named among the substitutes for the return fixture in Trondheim. But he is now central to Brendan Rodgers’ hopes of reaching the group stage for a third consecutive season.
The suspension of Jozo Simunovic, sent off in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Alashkert in the second leg of Celtic’s opening qualifier, has further limited Rodgers’ options in central defence with injuries to Marvin Compper and Nir Bitton adding to uncertainty over whether Mikael Lustig and Dedryck Boyata could be pressed into earlier than scheduled returns to action after their involvement at the World Cup finals this summer.
For the politely spoken and understated Ajer, the notion of any extra responsibility being placed on his shoulders receives an unfazed response.
“Whenever you play for Celtic, you always need to put on a top performance to keep your place in the team,” said the 20-year-old.
“So I just need to be 100 percent focused over the next few days. We need to keep everyone in the squad fit and ready to go for next week.”
James Forrest scored the crucial away goal which secured a 1-0 aggregate win for the Scottish champions last year and Ajer anticipates a similarly tense and close tie this time.
“Rosenborg, as last year, will be a really tough opponent,” said Ajer. “They have a lot of quality players. Nicklas Bendtner is a really good striker. It will be a really tough game, home and away.
“When you play Champions League qualifiers, you meet quality opponents. I know Rosenborg really well. After Celtic beat them in the Champions League last year, they beat Ajax to get into the Europa League group stage. They are really a top side. They can really hurt you if you are not 100 per cent up for the game.
“But we know that when they come here next week, we will hopefully put on a top performance. We also know that they are a great team. They are a typical Scandinavian team. They are well organised and have a good squad. That’s their biggest strength.”