Solskjaer's Cardiff reign shows Aston Villa dodged a bullet

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer very nearly became Aston Villa manager in May 2012 but fans are likely glad a deal never happened after witnessing his failed reign at Cardiff City.

Just hours after news broke on Wednesday that Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was set to be pushed out of the club, Paul Lambert was signing a new long-term deal with Aston Villa.

That wouldn't otherwise carry much significance, but for the fact that Lambert likely wouldn't have got the job in the first place back in the summer of 2012, were it not for the former Manchester United striker's decision to rule himself out of the running.

Then enjoying a successful stint at the helm of Molde in his native Norway, Solskjaer was the bookies favourite to take over from the ill-fated Alex McLeish following the 2011-12 campaign, and there were even reports that the 41-year-old, his wife Silje and agent Jim Solbakken were flown in owner Randy Lerner’s private jet from their home town of Kristiansund to Birmingham for a four-hour meeting.

The plug was pulled on a potential deal not soon after, however, with conflicting reasons cited, forcing Villa to eventually settle for then-Norwich City boss Paul Lambert, who had just guided the Canaries to a 12th-place Premier League finish on their return to the top-flight.

Lambert’s time at Villa Park has not been without its troubles since, his first two seasons at the club blighted with financial issues and relegation struggles, leading to disappointing 15th-place finishes in consecutive terms.

Few fans expected him to remain at the club past this summer but, after a rebuild saw the squad instilled with some much-needed veteran additions, his side now sit second in the table with 10 points from their opening four league games, resulting in a new four-year deal for the former Champions League-winning midfielder.

Solskjaer, meanwhile, eventually got his move to England, taking over from Malky Mackay at Cardiff in January, but the Norwegian’s dismal nine months in Wales went some way towards demonstrating how a possible reign at Villa could have gone.

Sitting 17th in the Premier League at the time of his appointment, the Bluebirds would win only three of their remaining 18 games to finish bottom of the table and return to the Championship, where things clearly proved no easier, despite heavy summer investment which saw 10 new players arrive.

The club started the campaign reasonably well, taking two wins and a draw from their opening three games, but a return of only one point from the last 12 on offer quickly led to talks paving the way for Solskjaer’s departure, with a 4-2 capitulation against Norwich seemingly sealing his fate.

Of course, fate might have been kinder to the the ex-United reserves coach had he opted to join Villa but, considering the constraints under which Lambert has had to work previously, there has been little to suggest that they wouldn’t currently be in the exact same situation Cardiff find themselves.

The atmosphere around Villa Park has been dire to at times over the past two years, to say the least, but, for all the criticism the Scot has received, the alternative for supporters could well have been even harder to take.

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