By Neil Moxley
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the surprise name on the shortlist to succeed Alex McLeish as Aston Villa manager.
Owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner are considering the former Manchester United striker for the post along with Roberto Martinez, Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers.
Villa’s first-team coach, Kevin MacDonald, has also asked to be included on the shortlist and has considerable support in the dressing room. But it is Solskjaer’s name which will attract the most attention.
He won the Norwegian league title in his first full season with Molde and has a contract with them until the summer of 2014.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has tipped Solskjaer as a star in the making, saying: ‘If you go to a club in Norway that have never won the league in their history and you win that league, then you have to have something about you.’
But it is thought Solskjaer wants to stay in Scandinavia because he has a young family and is keen to test himself in next season’s Champions League.
However, Villa have added him to their shortlist after he impressed them with the way he set up United’s reserve team when the sides met two years ago.
Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor has backed MacDonald for the job. ‘A lot of players have known Kevin for a long time and they respect him as a coach,’ he said. ‘I think he would be a good candidate.
‘He’s very good with the younger players and has won the reserves title I don’t know how many times now.
‘He’s had two years’ more experience since then and I think he would be a good choice.
‘The fans shouldn’t discount him because he’s not a big name. I think the change could make a big difference.’
Solskjaer’s emergence as a potential target comes on a day when McLeish has expressed his regret at letting down the Villa fans following his season of failure with the club.
McLeish was sacked by owner Randy Lerner after just 11 months in charge, overseeing a dismal campaign in which Villa came within two points of relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
Villa managed a club record low of four home wins, with their points tally of 38 their lowest for 42 years and their eventual 16th-place finish their worst in six seasons.
McLeish said: ‘When I accepted the role as manager of Aston Villa Football Club I was acutely aware of the responsibility I had to find the best way to serve the great traditions of one of the finest clubs in professional football.
‘I was truly honoured to have been given the opportunity to manage the club, which plays such an important part in the fabric of the local community and to its worldwide fan base.
‘I relished the challenge and, together with my loyal and very capable staff, dedicated all of my efforts into moulding a successful team.
‘My only regret in leaving now is we weren’t able to achieve more for the supporters and their high expectations.
‘Finally, I want to take this moment to say that I have nothing but the highest respect for the club and sincerely wish it and the fans great success in the future.’