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May 18, 2012

Solskjaer visit causes rift

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moved a step closer to taking the vacant manager's job at Aston Villa on Friday, flying to Birmingham to meet club owner Randy Lerner.

However, the move has provoked controversy in Norway, with Molde's major backers withdrawing their support for the club over in protest at Solskjaer's actions.

Solskjaer, 39, and wife Silje flew in on Lerner's private jet from their home town of Kristiansund, having been permission by Molde to speak with the Premier League side.

The two parties met for four-hours of talks, before Solskjaer returned to Norway to continue preparations for Molde's league fixture this Sunday. Molde announced earlier today they had received interest and contact from Aston Villa'', and said the Premier League club and Solskjaer "are talking together''.

Solskjaer added: "I can confirm I've spoken with Aston Villa. There were no negotiations, but an informal initial chat. They also have other candidates they want to talk to. I wanted to show respect for one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League by responding to their questions with an initial talk.''

Solskjaer told Norwegian newspaper Romsdals Budstikke: "I am the manager of the MFK (Molde) and have only had a casual conversation."

However, businessman Kjell Inge Rokke, chairman and a major shareholder in industrial investment firm Aker, said Solskjaer had been asked to answer questions about his plans before holding talks with Villa, but had not provided answers.

Rokke said: "This is perceived as incompatible with the MFK [Molde football club] community that we are both a part of.''

A statement released to newspaper Romsdals Budstikke on behalf of Rokke's business said: "Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not hidden the fact that one day he could go back to England. Nevertheless, Aker is surprising that he dropped Friday's training, and headed to England in public for informal talks with Aston Villa before three major league games in a week.''

Molde have reacted to the statement from Rokke and Aker and said the club "regrets" that the businessman and his company have decided to withdraw their backing.

In a statement on the club website, Molde said: "Rokke and Aker have for years been Molde Football Club's most important and largest partner in several areas. Molde FK are eternally grateful for the contribution and support Rokke, his family and Aker have shown us over the years.

"Molde Football Club regrets that Aker has decided to reduce its involvement as a result of our manager's actions. We confirm Rokke and Aker's version of events and why Aker has decided to reduce their contributions.''

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