On 4 September, 2007, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought down the curtain on his playing career having secured the lifelong adoration of Manchester United fans with his Champions League heroics.
Tonight he returns to a ground that has since somewhat lost its fortress status with a Cardiff City side which has shown signs of improvement under his calm and considered tutelage.
Cardiff go into tonight’s game off the back of a 1-0 FA Cup win away to Bolton, Fraizer Campbell having emulated his boss by coming off the bench to score the winner.
The provider, Craig Noone, had also come on as a substitute as Solskjaer displayed his tactical intuition to turn the game in the Bluebirds’ favour.
Solskjaer will undoubtedly be pleased with his side’s cup form in the build up to tonight’s game, but will be looking for them to translate it to the league.
His return to Old Trafford has long been in the back of his mind.
“I looked at it the day I got the job – when we were playing Man United. Since then it has been so busy, I haven’t had time to think about it. But now, my focus is of course on that game.
“It is a dream”, said the 40-year-old Norwegian.
Solskjaer placed an emphasis on a change of mindset: “Sometimes they need to get told they are better players than they think they are. We belong in the Premier League and should play against Man City and Man United. We are good enough to be here.”
The former United super-sub clearly wants to follow in the footsteps of his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson: “I had a manager who was for me the best one of the lot to get you to your max.”
United have been plagued by injuries this season, but Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Marouane Fellaini have all returned to full training ahead of tonight’s clash.
The match could also be a first glimpse of Manchester United’s record signing Juan Mata.
The Spaniard’s £37.1 million move from Chelsea was confirmed on Saturday and Solskjaer will surely be well aware of his talents.
David Moyes will be hoping that Juan Mata will instil a much-needed creativity to a midfield which has consisted of Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and the disappointing Fellaini.
The 50-year-old Scot will know if he can get Mata combining with Rooney and the lethal Van Persie, Champions League football next season will become a realistic proposition.
Cardiff have also been busy in the transfer window with Premier League survival very much their top priority. Solskjaer has already brought in three new signings and has intimated that there are more to come.
Jo Inge Berget and Mats Moller Daehli both arrived from Solskjaer’s old club Molde for undisclosed fees and midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem was signed for £2.2 million.
The Norwegian trio are all full internationals and Solskjaer has defended his one-dimensional transfer policy.
“There’s loads of players that I’ve wanted, maybe had a look at, but the price tag is not realistic.
We’re talking about three full internationals I’ve brought in on very cheap prices,” he said. Solskjaer is being made to sweat on deals for Kenwyne Jones and Manchester United duo Wilfred Zaha and Fabio.
All three are expected to put pen to paper before the January transfer window closes.