You never know what football is all about. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became one of Roy Keane's most consistent allies at Manchester United, but 12 years later he helped develop Erling Bride Haaland – son of the once-and-come enemy of Irishman Alf-Inge Haaland – into such a good striker that he moved 7 million pounds to Austria.
The seven days that begin with the FA Cup match Monday evening in Chelsea and culminate with Liverpool's arrival at Old Trafford next Sunday could either repress or crush Solskjaer's hopes of becoming a permanent United manager.
Last Tuesday's sober 2-0 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain indicated that the man Keane claims to have considered himself a "student fan" when he first met him.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be at the door for eight weeks as an interim manager for Manchester United
We are about to find out if Solskjaer, the epitome of equanimity and modesty, has more to offer in the management board.
The hunger for success in the Premier League has always been there. When Cardiff City called five years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson was so worried about the prospect that his former prosecutor was working for the club's provocative owner, Vincent Tan, that he had sent SMS to Solskjaer, urging him against the idea.
"Tomorrow is the strongest you will be with the owner," he said. But Solskjaer was determined. He was away from Cardiff within nine months.
Despite hitting a point above the relegation zone in January 2014 and seeing him relegated to a game yet to be played, there was evidence of this appreciation for what keeps the players ticking, which has been such a transforming effect at Old Trafford since December Has .
Solskjaer spent nine months in Cardiff after a difficult time in the Welsh club
Danny Gabbidon, signed by Solskjaer in the summer of 2014, recalls a conversation between the two about another player, in which the new manager talked about "personal things" rather than "features on the court."
It struck him instantly that Solskjaer showed the same interest in the players that Ferguson had always made an article of faith.
But when it came to what happened in Cardiff Square, the picture was more complicated. Solskjers Cardiff had arrived in South Wales with a conversation about a philosophy of ball binding and seemed to have no identity at all.
He signed the former midfielder of Manchester United Academy Magnus Wolff Eikrem from Heerenveen in Holland and Mats Moller Daehli, another product of Carrington, who followed Solskjaer from Molde. However, it was unwise to create a version of his alma mater on the banks of the Taff.
"He tried to transfer the attacking United trains to the Cardiff team, and it did not work," says Gabbidon. "The players were used to Malky Mackay's ways."
Others felt that they lacked personality when things became difficult.
Danny Gabbidon had the feeling that Solskjaer was trying to implement the assault moves of United in Cardiff
"He was not a leader," says a source. He looked down from his depth and lost temporarily, but when it got hard, Mackay had a lot more aura about them, and they even felt that Ole lost the day they relocated to Newcastle after a 3-0 defeat had the feeling. "
In the championship Solskjaer found things even more difficult and fought for a fundamental harmony.
"It was a great squad and he added, although I'm not sure if all the signatures were his," says Gabbidon. "There was almost a renegade group who knew they would not play."
These short and difficult nine months are not enough to give a full verdict. Solskjer's six-and-a-half-year Molde management, which was interrupted by the Cardiff period and 13 months after the match, offers a broader perspective.
Many in Norway said he seemed in a hurry the first time, seemingly determined to make Molde his Premier League ticket. He would have left earlier, for Aston Villa could not have stood in the way of Molde's wealthy owner, businessman Kjell Inge Rokke.
One source claimed that Solskjaer had no leadership during his stay in Cardiff
In his second period from 2015, he did not seem to be as deliberate as if he felt his chance had disappeared. He seemed less distant and relaxed. This time, selected journalists had his number and he would answer their call.
The time before Cardiff was by far the most successful. Solskjaer was helped by the economic struggles of Rosenborg – the dominant Norwegian club. He capitalized and led Molde to his first title in 2011, repeating the performance the following year.
He completely renounced Norway's deeply watched culture of restricting managers to the practice grounds, and instead established himself as a powerful English leader. He was also adamant about the trait he wanted with most new players.
"Does he have pace?" Was the first question he would ask. He chose players who wanted to be on the ball and were ready to use them quickly.
His second phase as a manager was tougher and the results much more patchy. The European League campaign 2015-16 was the outstanding achievement. Molde won a group with Celtic, Ajax and Fenerbahce and was eliminated in the final 32 only by the eventual winner Sevilla – a great success for any Scandinavian club.
Solskjaer led Molde to the first title in 2011 and repeated the performance the following year
Rosenborg, however, has recovered to master for four consecutive years. Molde was second and fifth in the last three years.
The game style of the team was traditionally Norwegian the second time – directly and physically, with a stronger sense of purpose – even though the powers of the man-management were the same.
"He's such a big figure in Norway," says Oyvind Herrebroden of the newspaper VG. "If Solskjaer tells you something, it's a conversation with God. The players listen when he speaks, and he speaks well anyway. "
No one says he was a particularly good scavenger, but he has shown the ability to improve players. Erling Bride Haaland developed enormously under his tutelage and earned Molde 7 million pounds for his signing at Red Star Salzburg.
The more fundamental question relates to the tactical and strategic value shown by United's interim head in Norway.
Sir Alex Ferguson (right) reveals how Solskjaer took notes before he came
In his autobiography Ferguson tells the story of how Solskjaer, the multi-year United substitute, would always sit on the bench and take notes about the developing game.
At that point he had analyzed who the opponents were, what positions they took. He had worked out these pictures like a diagram for him and knew where he should go and when. He had this analytical mind. "
But Norwegian observers do not see him like that. The quality of the players and the level of competition in the Norwegian Elite Series are simply not as good with respect.
With the exception of Rosenborg – who defeated Molde 1-0 last fall – it is not much that you can do with your manager. Had he left Europe since leaving Cardiff, he would have had the experience of challenging her. Instead, it's hard to see how he has this advantage.
For the club, which has worked under the monumental ego of Jose Mourinho, it is enough to get the best out of United's lavishly assembled team.
Deputy Chairman Ed Woodward publicly thanked Solskjaer last week, who scored ten wins in twelve positions to "revive" United's achievements. They speak every day.
Perhaps a return to more elementary and self-reinforcing leadership skills is enough. It is an absence of ego that has enabled Solskjaer to restore the club to its old values, to rejoice in the players he has inherited, and to turn to Ferguson like no other since the great manager left.
And maybe he has more steel than he was allowed.
"Usually you can not give a player an edge if he did not somehow acquire him as a teenager," Ferguson once said. "But from time to time there is an example that gives you hope. I think of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "