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CITY BLUE OUT RED HOT OLE!; They snubbed chance to buy goal ace Gunnar.

Soccer sensation Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be making more than just Newcastle's dodgy defenders cringe today if he catches fire in the big Premiership crunch.

For Steve Coppell will be wincing, too ... Manchester City could have bought the Norwegian before he became a cut-price United hero.

Aage Hareide, manager at Solskjaer's old club Molde FK in Norway, tipped off City AND Everton about the striker's potential before Alex Ferguson steamed in with a pounds 1.5m bid.

New Maine Road boss Coppell and Everton manager Joe Royle are both desperate for goal power and have been linked with a host of big-money hit men.

But they could have snapped up goal-king Gunnar for a bargain pounds 1.2m and beaten Manchester United to the punch after being given the rundown on Solskjaer's potential.

Hareide, who played in midfield for City in the early Eighties, tipped off both clubs. But pre-Coppell City and Everton refused to gamble.

And that's left them losers in a cut-throat market where class performers are like gold dust.

And SuperSport can reveal that Fergie could have been a loser, too because Hareide - nicknamed Oggy by the City fans - treated United's bid as a wind-up.

Hareide was stunned when a fax from Fergie landed on his desk during Euro 96.

His first instinct was to chuck the message in the bin believing it the work of a busy agent looking for a slice of the deal. But after checking with Old Trafford, Hareide found United's huge package was no joke - and Norway went crackers.

Says Hareide: "I knew United were interested because they sent reserve coach Jimmy Ryan to watch Ole Gunnar for Norway against Azerbaijan.

"But Italian team Cagliari and Hamburg of Germany had also been in contact, too, and I was aware of agents watching the situation.

"That's why when United came out of the blue with such a big bid, I was taken aback.

"I thought someone was being mischievous and the fax was not all it seemed. But when I inspected it closely it seemed genuine.

"We still contacted United to double check and then accepted their offer.

"When the public found out the place went mad because it's a record fee in Norway.

''The deal was for Ole to stay with us for a couple of weeks but his form suffered with all the attention although it was nothing to the adulation he's getting now at United."

Hareide who had no hesitation telling Solskjaer to pack his bags for Manchester. "Solskjaer was improving very quickly and he had the chance to move even sooner. But I told him to wait for a big club with good players.

"I thought his talent would be wasted alongside bad players and that's why United are the perfect club for him.

"He is just made to play with Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Roy Keane and I told Alex he'd be surprised by the boy's quality.

''His scoring record is so impressive and I know Alex is realising he has signed a very special talent.

"In his first season for Molde he hit 20 goals in 26 games and before he left in the summer he got 11 in 12 games. He has quick feet and will always shoot on sight but he still has things to learn.

"However, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep him for long and that's why I nicknamed him, 'Askeladden'.

"That's the name of the young boy in a Norwegian fairy-tale who goes from rags to riches and it fits Ole Gunnar so well."

For Solskjaer, it seems, the story is only just beginning.

And Kevin Keegan will be hoping that Solskjaer doesn't write another glory chapter at St. James' Park today.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Bates, Steve
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 20, 1996
Words:623
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