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Doing job Ole different way is Solksjaer's key to success

The thing about youngish managers without a large body of work behind them is you can spin their achievements whichever way you like.

Solskjaer oversees Cardiff's FA Cup win at Newcastle Photograph: PA
Solskjaer oversees Cardiff's FA Cup win at Newcastle Photograph: PA

Whoever has been spinning those of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the benefit of Vincent Tan has obviously done a decent job.

This is not to say Solskjaer, who got off to a winning start at Newcastle in the FA Cup yesterday, is a bad choice for Cardiff City. Rather that, as with most guys with his limited track record, his appointment requires a leap of faith, a projection of what he might be capable of based on how he presents himself, what he achieved as a player and how persuasive he might be face-to-face.

His coaching CV says he spent 18 months in charge of Manchester United's reserves, followed by three seasons at Molde, where he won two league titles and a Norwegian Cup. Then you consider Molde were the league's biggest spenders in his first season and that he brought in half a dozen starters. And how he's one of the best connected men in football and you ask yourself to what degree that might have provided a leg-up. Or you might look at Molde's slide to sixth last season and wonder why Solskjaer couldn't build on the previous years' success.

Or you might consider winning a league - any league, let alone delivering the first Norwegian title in Molde's history - is in itself an achievement. And the fact that, before taking the job, he was hugely popular in Norway was a double-edged sword: with popularity comes expectation. Throw in the Sir Alex bloodlines and the fact Solskjaer comes across as meticulous, soft-spoken and intelligent ("boring" is how he describes himself) and you can see the appeal.

You're also left to wonder whether he regrets not taking the Aston Villa job a year ago. And whether that final season at Molde somehow caused his stock to plummet, causing him to end up at a newly-promoted side with Tan rather than a perennial Premier League club with a solid owner such as Villa. Intuitively, it shouldn't matter. If he was good enough for Villa 18 months ago then, unless you think he somehow lost his mojo, he ought to be good enough for Cardiff. But football - or, rather, the peculiar art of choosing the right man for the right job - is a game of relationships, impressions and windows that open and close often with little warning.

Solskjaer's first appointment is at a club where, inevitably, the term "poisoned chalice" will be thrown around. Indeed, one national newspaper wondered what manager with "dignity" would ever agree to work under Tan (this was at the height of the Vincent-eats-babies frenzy). Predictably, Solskjaer had to reassure the media repeatedly that he would have "final say" on transfers, because, of course, he's no longer just a promising manager, he's the man with the temerity to step into Malky Mackay's shoes.

What does he have to do to keep the job? Probably not all that much. Avoid relegation, of course, which could be tricky but should be do-able. Given Tan cited some of Mackay's poor signings as the reason for his frustration, Solskjaer will have a strong case when asking for January funds. Stay within budget on transfers, which Mackay - according to Tan - failed to do, and have the team playing better football than his predecessor, which will be the true test of his ability, at least relative to Mackay.

It's sink or swim for Solskjaer, but he's getting a crack at the Premier League at the age of 40 and he's doing it in circumstances that are pretty good.

He has a ready-made manual after all: don't do what Mackay did. Achieve that and - unless Tan really is the demented super-villain the red-tops would have us believe - he'll do just fine.

Craig Burley tells the story of former referee Willie Young's reaction to being booed by the crowd at Celtic Park. He walked up to Burley and said "You hear that? They're booing you, not me!"

Conversations between match officials and players are based on intelligence, trust and sensitivity. You need the intelligence to know what to say. You need the trust to ensure that if you say something it doesn't go beyond the pitch. And you need sensitivity to know what will cause offence and what won't.

Were Burley a different character with a different personality, he might have been offended or affected by Young's joke. And he might have complained afterwards.

We don't know the exact context of what Mark Clattenburg said to Adam Lallana. We know what he said - "you're very different now, since you've played for England. You never used to be like this" - but not how he said it, what prefaced it or what his relationship with the Southampton captain is.

All we know is that after the authorities determined Southampton's complaint baseless, the club remained angry enough to demand Clattenburg not be assigned to their matches. Adjudicating this one is, frankly, impossible. So let's use it as a teachable moment. Maybe it's best for referees (and players) to cut down on what they think is "banter" and "clever game management". Just do your jobs and you won't be in these situations.

Paul Lambert is the Grinch du jour for stating what so many top-flight managers felt ahead of this weekend's FA Cup ties: that the Premier League is a priority.

"Not just because of the money, but survival in the league is vital," the Aston Villa manager said. "That is the nature of it. If anyone says any differently then I am not so sure they will be telling the truth."

Cue hordes of reporters being sent around the country for reaction to Lambert's comments, and cue the predictable limp responses about the "magic of the cup".

It's the same freaking story every year. And has been for the past two decades. Lambert was stating the obvious. It is what it is. A cup competition with a healthy dose of randomness thrown in. And that in no way diminishes the FA Cup.

If the Premier League is getting a job and earning money while doing something productive, the FA Cup is going down the bookies after studying the form sheet. Both are fun, both can be worthwhile, but success in the latter is based on luck and happenstance. And it can distract you from your day job.

Considering Villa were knocked out by Sheffield United yesterday, though, it's not something Lambert need worry about further this term.

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