Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to be appointed as Cardiff City manager after a whirlwind day of negotiations with the club's owner, Vincent Tan. Solskjaer flew from Norway to London with Tan on the businessman's private jet on Wednesday and took his place alongside him in the Emirates Stadium directors' box in the afternoon to watch Cardiff's 2-0 Premier League defeat by Arsenal.
Nicklas Bendtner was the Arsenal hero, coming off the substitutes' bench to break Cardiff's resistance with an 88th-minute goal. The striker injured his ankle after scoring, as he fell awkwardly, and he will be out for "weeks, not days", according to Arsène Wenger. The Arsenal manager was already without his other recognised No9, Olivier Giroud, because of ankle trouble, although Giroud is expected to be fit next week. Arsenal remain on top of the table.
It was Solskjaer's appearance next to Tan and with the Cardiff chairman, Mehmet Dalman, in the seat to his other side that provided the most intriguing sub-plot. Solskjaer, the former Manchester United striker and Old Trafford youth coach, has carved his managerial reputation at Molde in his native Norway, where he has won two league titles and one cup in three seasons.
He is set now to take on the job at Cardiff, working for the notoriously demanding Tan, who took the unpopular decision to sack Malky Mackay last Friday, despite the Scot having won the club's first promotion to the top-flight in 51 years. Cardiff sit 17th in the table, one point above the relegation places. As an aside, Dalman is the banker who introduced the Glazers to Manchester United while Solskjaer is a patron of the Manchester United Supporters Trust.
It had been suggested that Solskjaer had reservations about taking the job after Tan's numerous disputes with Mackay over recent months. But Dalman remained confident he could persuade the 40-year-old with the promise of £25m to spend in the January transfer window and reassurances over the working structure at the club.
Solskjaer turned down the chance to become the Aston Villa manager before the appointment of Paul Lambert and had also been linked with the current vacancy at West Bromwich Albion. His first game will be the FA Cup third round tie at Newcastle United on Saturday.
Solskjaer and Tan arrived at the Emirates in a black Rolls Royce and they watched a spirited Cardiff performance under the caretaker charge of David Kerslake, who said he had not spoken to Tan and would continue in the role until told otherwise.
"Coaches and managers in football know that it's a precarious job and we just get on with it," Kerslake, Mackay's former No2, said. "Although Joe [McBride], myself and the rest of the staff know it's only temporary, the last thing I said to the players was that they made me feel immensely proud of the performance they put in.
Kerslake and the midfielder Aron Gunnarsson said that Solskjaer had not been discussed before the game. "He's played for one of the biggest teams in England, a lot of people know who he is and I've heard he's done a good job at Molde," Gunnarsson said, when questioned afterwards.
"If he gets the job, hopefully he can take us further and we can progress as a team because we need that at the moment. It will be something new but it won't be to do with his name. He's done well with Molde and if he comes in, I'm sure he'll bring something fresh. Everyone wants to carry on and get more points on the board. When the owner sorts a new manager out, we can get on with things."
Wenger said he had seen Solskjaer before the game and he suggested afterwards that Cardiff had "played like they knew he was in the stands".
"What you want when you're young is a chance and he [Solskjaer] has that luck," Wenger said. "He has already experience as a manager in Norway so he has learned his job. He was an intelligent player and an intelligent boy as well and that will help him to be successful. He will do well."