Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived at Manchester United in July 1996 an unknown quantity. In a summer where Newcastle United paid Blackburn Rovers a world record £15m for Alan Shearer, the acquisition of a £1.5m 23-year-old striker from Norway went largely unnoticed.
It didn't take him long to emerge from the shadows though.
In fact it only took him a few minutes. Solskjaer bagged his first goal for United six minutes after coming off the bench on his debut against Blackburn. He went on to build a reputation as Sir Alex's "super-sub" for his remarkable ability to score crucial goals late in games after coming off the bench, and in his first season he didn't waste any time in establishing himself as a key member of the first team squad. Capitalizing on Andy Cole's absence through injury, he finished the 1996/97 campaign with 18 Premier League goals, helping United win the title in the last few weeks of the season.
Nicknamed the "Baby-Faced Assasin" by the British media for his boyish looks and deadly finishing ability, Solskjaer went on to score 126 goals in 366 appearances for the Red Devils over the course of 11 seasons.
Solskjaer is a legend at Old Trafford, and won the affection of the United faithful not just through his important goals, but through a selfless attitude that always put the team above personal glory. This was highlighted by a defining moment in a match against Newcastle in 1998. With scores level at 1-1, United needed at least a draw to keep pace with Premier League leaders Arsenal in the title race. Newcastle's Rob Lee had broken free of the United defence when Solskjaer, knowing his side simply couldn’t afford to lose, came haring back to commit a professional foul and stop Lee from scoring. Solskjaer knew a red card and a hefty suspension would follow, but made the sacrifice without hesitation to keep their title hopes alive.
Solskjaer's greatest moment in a Manchester United shirt, however, came in their legendary Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich in 1999. Typically, this was a match in which Solskjaer only emerged from the bench in the 80th minute. Trailing 1-0 in injury time, Teddy Sheringham equalised before Solskjaer scored the winning goal right at the death to cap a remarkable comeback. David Beckham's corner was flicked to the far post by Sheringham, where Solskjaer stuck out a leg to toe poke the ball into the roof of Oliver Kahn's net. It remains one of the most iconic moments in the club's history, and crowned a famous League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.
Sir Alex often praised Solskjaer's outstanding ability to study a game from the bench and know exactly how to hurt the opposition when he got his chance. In 1998 he scored four goals in 12 minutes after coming on as a substitute in United's 8-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. He repeated that feat against Everton the following year.
For the 2000/01 season Solskjaer was paired with Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy as he finally got a chance as a regular starter. He took the opportunity with aplomb, bagging 25 goals in what was his highest-scoring season for the club. Unfortunately Solskjaer's contribution over the seasons that followed began to wane due to a persistent knee injury, and on 27th August 2007 he announced his retirement from playing and joined the United coaching staff.
Solskjaer, who, with 28, holds the record for the most goals scored for Manchester United as a substitute, is now manager of Norwegian club Molde, where he played before joining United. His success has seen him linked with the managerial position at Blackburn, but at just 38, he might be holding out for something bigger. Successor to Sir Alex? A touch optimistic, perhaps, but if there's one man capable of springing a surprise; it's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Check out our signed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer products here, including a brilliant photo of THAT Champions League-winning goal.