Fans of Norwegian club Molde FK still look back fondly at their team's adventures in the UEFA Champions League ten years ago, when the likes of Real Madrid CF, FC Porto and Olympiacos CFP all visited Aker Stadium. That campaign nonetheless signalled the beginning of the end for Molde as one of Norway's leading sides, but with the club riding high in the Eliteserien this term, there is good reason to believe a return to European football is on the cards.
Kjell Jonevret's charges currently lie second, six points behind Rosenborg BK with eleven matches remaining, though the leaders boast a game in hand, and much of that success is down to the work of their Swedish coach. Jonevret has put together a side featuring a good mix of emerging talents and Norwegian veterans, not to mention a forward line blessed with explosive pace and an eye for goal.
His lineup also features the player of the season so far in Makhtar Thioune, a Senegalese schemer who has impressed everyone since joining from Sarpsborg 08 FF before the start of the campaign. The 24-year-old possesses pace, valuable ball-winning skills and real drive going forward. "Thioune has proved to be a good signing for us," said Jonevret. "We will see how long we can hold on to him."
Holding on to talent could very well prove challenging, with foreign scouts having descended on Molde since the team's fortunes improved. Thioune's compatriot Mame Biram Diouf was recently snapped up by none other than Manchester United FC, much to the player's own surprise. "I thought someone was having a laugh," said the striker, who hit four goals in his last game before joining the Red Devils, a 5-2 victory over SK Brann. "I waited for them to crack up, but finally realised it was true. It really is a dream come true for me and I can't wait to pull on the famous red jersey."
The deal had much to do with the recommendation of another player who once made the move from Molde to Manchester, Old Trafford legend and current reserve coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær. "If I only have some of Solskjær's success at United, I will be very happy," said the 21-year-old, who has been loaned back to Molde for the remainder of the 2009 Norwegian season. Molde fans will now be hoping he can steer the club back into Europe before joining up with his new team-mates next year – and, who knows, maybe one day soon he will find himself returning to Aker Stadium with Sir Alex Ferguson's men.