The daughter of ex-Red Devils striker and manager, Ole, made her first-team debut in January after impressing for the clubs Under-21s side
It was a cold January afternoon and there was a famous face in the house at Bridgwater United.
The club had drawn Manchester United in the Women’s FA Cup and, with 88 minutes on the clock, it was about to become as memorable an afternoon for the visitors as it was for the hosts.
Stepping on the pitch was a familiar name, the one that famous face in the crowd had come to watch. It was Karna Solskjaer, the 18-year-old forward coming on for her senior debut in front of her parents, Ole and Silje.
Her father might have left his post as head coach of the men’s team in late November, but he has been in attendance for each of Karna’s games for United’s academy since.
Nonetheless, Solskjaer’s debut at the beginning of 2022 was not just handed to her because she has a famous name.
With 14 goals in 14 league games for the Under-21s this season, plus a strike in United’s 5-0 Women’s Super League Academy Cup semi-final win over Aston Villa, this was well-earned.
“It wasnt a token for Karna,” head coach Marc Skinner told reporters after her debut. “It was deserved from her performance [vs Aston Villa]. Congratulations to her.
“Obviously, shes got a famous dad, but she wants to be famous in her own right.”
Proud parents ❤️#MUWomen | #WomensFACup https://t.co/DwvK9t84zX pic.twitter.com/aVHvBBay5O
Solskjaer’s first steps in football can be traced back to the same place as her father’s, at Clausenengen FK, an amateur club in the small town of Kristiansund on the west coast of Norway.
In fact, she is the third of the club’s alumni to wear the famous colours of Manchester United, with goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen having also signed for a year in 2019.
Oyvind Leonhardsen, formerly of Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa, is another famous product of the club, as is Trond Andersen, who played in the Premier League with Wimbledon.
“We are well organised, have always had a lot of talented trainers and managers, so its a very good club,” chairman John Marius Dybvik tells GOAL. “[With] a very great legacy!”
Dybvik knows the latest of Clausenengen’s success stories very well. He has been around the club for approximately 15 years, and his daughter played with Solskjaer in the youth teams.
He was assistant to the team, too, which Solskjaer joined “probably as soon as she was able to run”, he jokes.
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“It was clear to us very early that Karna had a special talent,” Dybvik explains. “She was already a notorious goal scorer, which of course her teams benefited from. She has always been very good at dribbling. From early, she could dribble by two or three opponents and score a goal.
“Of course, when you have a famous striker as your father, he must have had a lot of impact on her developing and how she developed skills. Thats for sure.
“She definitely had a striking way to train and develop her technical skills, which were her foremost assets when she was a youngster.
“We as a club, we would like to say that we are very proud and happy on behalf of Karna.”
Often playing up front in a 4-4-2 in her younger days, Solskjaer has now transitioned into a wider position, but has not lost her clinical touch.
“What she does have – and I want to make sure Ole tries to pass these secrets on – is a wonderful finishing ability,” Skinner said earlier this season. “She has a calmness in those positions and finds the right spaces to finish.
The latest player to make her United first-team bow: Karna Solskjaer ????????????#MUWomen | #WomensFACup pic.twitter.com/HKhhugMDj1
“What we need to add to her is just speed of play. When do you run in behind? When do you expose the backline? When do you have it to feet and play? Its joining her into that faster paced game, because she can come from the sides, but I think she has the ability to finish in the box.
“Shes quite a quiet character and I think thats just going to take a little bit of time for her to be in and around that, and trust and believe in herself.”
Dybvik remembers a similar personality, describing Solskjaer as one never to “make much fuss around herself”. Her name is bound to attract a lot of attention, though, as she looks to make her mark in Manchester. How, then, will United look to manage that?
“From what I know about Karna, shes a wonderfully professional character,” Skinner said. “What I want to do is make sure I bring out that personality, which we all know she has.
“We’re trying to find the right level and moment for each [youngster] to be involved, but shes got a great background behind her, great people behind her in her camp. Well balance it right and effectively as time needs, as she gets closer.”
At 18, she has already made history as part of the first father-daughter duo to play for Manchester United.
What is next? It is going to be exciting to find out.