Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: How Cardiff boss can build on win at Newcastle
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about transfer targets after Cardiff's historic FA Cup win at Newcastle, he was understandably keen to focus on the day's achievements rather than speculate about the future.
But after saying he intended to boost the squad, the new Bluebirds boss gave a glimpse of a playful character and perhaps another sign that he might be the right man for the club after their first win at St James' Park since 1963.
"Actually, I was thinking maybe we could go with the local [Welsh] lads," he said, with a grin beginning to appear on the 40-year-old's still-youthful face.
"I've been thinking to ask the owner about [former Manchester United team-mate] Ryan Giggs, [Arsenal's] Aaron Ramsey, [Real Madrid's] Gareth Bale, maybe they are the targets."
The festive period has been anything but merry for Cardiff as the fallout between former manager Malky Mackay and Malaysian owner Vincent Tan has been played out in public.
Solskjaer, though, has come into the club with a fresh narrative, not only returning the side to winning ways, but doing so in a manner for which he was renowned during his Manchester United playing days.
Two goals by substitutes Craig Noone and Fraizer Campbell earned a 2-1 comeback victory on Saturday, something former striker Solskjaer knows all about after famously scoring a sensational winner for the Red Devils during the 1999 Champions League final.
The Norwegian's ability to deliver a telling blow while looking like he could charm your mother-in-law has earned him the nickname of the "baby-faced assassin" and it may yet come to be a valuable asset in Premier League management.
It might also be useful to woo agents and managers alike as he bolsters his squad over the next month without a head of recruitment following the dismissal of Iain Moody in October. Cardiff are just a place and a point above the relegation zone.
Former Molde manager Solskjaer praised his side's character after beating Newcastle but also said he was pleased with the performance at Arsenal on New Year's Day - where he watched from the stands as Cardiff lost to two late goals - and suggested there would be no mass player clear-out.
"We have a solid foundation here, it's the longest and hardest season in any football country so the depth of the squad is something I'm looking at because the quality is there," said Solskjaer, who has been told he has funds available.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer profile
- 1973: Born 26 February in Kristiansund, Norway
- 1995: Joins Molde from Clausenengen FK and scores 20 goals in 26 games
- 1996: Joins Manchester United for £1.5m and scores on his debut against Blackburn at Old Trafford
- 1996-97: Finishes his first season as United's top league scorer with 18 goals
- 1999: Scores injury-time winner at the Nou Camp to beat Bayern Munich and win the Champions League
- 2007: Retires from playing in August and, soon afterwards, becomes reserve team manager
- 2010: Appointed Molde manager, ending a 14-year tie with Old Trafford
- 2011: Leads Molde to their first league title in 100 years in his debut season
- 2012: Helps Molde retain their league title
Having only taken his first training session on Thursday, he admitted there was little time to fully promote his attacking principles at Newcastle, but he patrolled the touchline on Saturday instilling a short, sharp passing game as South Korean midfielder Kim Bo-kyung found space behind lone forward Andreas Cornelius.
Peter Whittingham was characteristically deadly from set-pieces, creating the eventual winner for Campbell, while the defensive discipline implemented by Mackay was there to see whenever Cardiff lost the ball.
The biggest problems have come in front of goal for the Bluebirds this season. No team has scored fewer goals away from home than the five they have managed in the Premier League and there have been calls for another lead striker.
Cornelius was replaced before the comeback began on Saturday and is yet score since joining Cardiff for £7.5m last summer.
There is also a feeling among some Cardiff supporters that the midfield should be bolstered, although Solskjaer rested Chilean midfielder Gary Medel. And they might need further resources to supplement full-backs Declan John and Kevin Theophile-Catherine with Kevin McNaughton looking short of pace at St James' Park.
Solskjaer has already shown he can bring out the best in Campbell despite still harbouring a playful grudge against his former Manchester United team-mate after the youngster failed to pass the ball to him for a goal during his testimonial. Would he forgive Campbell after his Newcastle winner? "Never," was the reply.
So there might still be time for Cornelius. Others strikers may also jump at the chance to work with a man who was a keen student during his Manchester United playing days, often noting down his manager Sir Alex Ferguson's training sessions in his diaries before becoming the reserve team boss in 2008.
Cardiff have already been linked with Blackpool forward Thomas Ince, Crystal Palace's Welsh winger Jonathan Williams and 18-year-old Molde midfielder Mats Moller Daehli. Solskjaer's contacts at Old Trafford might also smooth any potential loan deal for out-of-favour United winger Wilfried Zaha.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes and Hull manager Steve Bruce were fellow Ferguson pupils, while Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen was at United at the same time, so the Cardiff manager will have friends he can consult.
He now faces a crucial period before his side face fellow strugglers West Ham next weekend where he can further implement his attacking methods and make important calls.
Before January is finished, there is a trip to Manchester City, who Cardiff have already beaten this season, and then a return to his former home, Old Trafford.
The important point to remember is that Cardiff were 12th in the table before the Tan-Mackay row began to play out.
But following his start at Cardiff - and Manchester United's recent woes at home - Solskjaer could yet extract more from his strikers to leave the Theatre of Dreams as a baby-faced villain.
"I'm looking forward to that, of course," he said with another sweet smile and a deadliness in his eyes.