Celtic’s Europa League fixture at the Aker Stadium has been provided with added intrigue following former Manchester United idol Solskjaer’s appointment as Molde head coach on the eve of the tie.
Solskjaer is back for a second spell in charge of the club he led to consecutive Norwegian League titles in 2011 and 2012 before leaving for an ill-fated sojourn as Cardiff City manager where he was sacked after just nine months. It was the latest in a series of failures abroad by Norwegian managers. Egil Olsen, the country’s most famous coach, flopped at Wimbledon in 1999 while both Stale Solbakken and Henning Berg have more recently seen their reputations damaged by poor tenures at Wolves and Blackburn Rovers respectively.
Only Trond Sollied, the former Rosenborg coach who has won silverware in Belgium, Greece and Holland as a manager, has significantly bucked that trend in the modern game.
Celtic manager Deila, whose success in eclipsing Solskjaer’s Molde to win the Norwegian title for unfashionable Stromsgodset in 2013 attracted the attention of the Scottish champions, is determined to build on the achievements of his debut campaign with the Parkhead club which saw him land the Premiership and League Cup.
“In life you want to develop yourself and find new challenges,” said Deila. “To be a manager in another country is very, very tough. A lot of Norwegian managers have tried it before – three, four or five in Britain – and didn’t succeed. I have now tried it as well and it has been very tough. But it has also been an unbelievable challenge.
“I don’t do things because of what others have done. I do it because I want to develop myself and I love to have challenges in life. I have learned so much in the time I have been at Celtic. Hopefully I will take another step and win more.
“It’s hard for me to say why other Norwegian coaches haven’t done well when they go to Britain. But I think part of it is the club you choose.
“At Celtic, there is consistency in things, the way the club is run. Much more so than the clubs the other Norwegian managers have been at.
“So it’s about the club you are at and also the small details that can determine whether you do good or bad. It’s a tough business.”
Deila expects the return of Solskjaer to make Celtic’s task more difficult tonight as they seek a victory which would hand them the initiative at the halfway point of their Group A campaign.
“Ole is a big personality in Norwegian football,” added Deila. “He will add a lot of energy to their team. What he did with Molde the last time was very good. His appointment will be a kick for them. They will get more belief and energy.
“He was the manager of Molde when I won the league with Stromsgodset. They had won it the two years before, so we broke their run.
“We were runners-up the year before we won it and then took them in the third year. Molde had a lot more resources than us. The season we won the league, they started very poor but then came strong at the end. Overall, that season we were much better than them.
“If we can win this game against Molde, it will put us in a very good situation. This is a big game for us in Europe and we will do everything we can to get the three points but we also know that it is tough to win away in Europe. I know also that when we are playing at our best, we have a good chance to win this game.”
Solskjaer is eagerly anticipating the chance to lock horns with Deila again as he returns to the Molde technical area.
“Ronny is a very skilled coach and we talked a lot to each other when I was at Cardiff,” said Solskjaer. “He had handled the adversity he had initially with Celtic really well and has done a fantastic job there.
“It is exciting for me to be back at Molde and even more fun to have my first game against a big club like Celtic. I have good memories of playing against them for Manchester United and this should be a fantastic occasion for our club.”