Mats Møller Dæhli. Unless you’re a Football Manager geek and already know that I’m talking about a player with exceptional dribbling abilities and the potential to become a five star rated player, you should memories this name. As I mentioned in an article on Friday, talent development has been slow in recent years in Norway. Since Norwegian football peaked in the late 90’s there has been a steady decline in the quality that has emerged from our 5-odd million strong ranks. However, a valiant semi-final exit in this year’s U21 World Cup could signal that things are about to pick up.
And behind the U21’s lurks the most exciting prospect recorded in Norwegian football in a host of years. Having been awarded his first two senior international caps this weekend, Daehli has thoroughly introduced himself in the top flight this season. Since he moved from the Manchester United academy to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Molde in July to get first team experience, he has won the Young Player of the Year award in Tippeligaen, and is already growing into an integral part of Solskjaer’s side.
The immense raw talent that lives in his modest 5 feet and 10 inches was acknowledged at Man United. The reason for his departure is likely to be entirely down to his own hunger for first team football. That, and the fact that Man United legend and former reserves coach Solskjaer has a good reputation at Old Trafford. ‘Sunshine’ knows Daehli from his time in the United training staff, and as with Magnus Wolff Eikrem – Molde’s current midfield director and also a product of the United academy – he benefited from his contacts within the club. If Daehli is to fulfil his potential, United are likely to have a buy back clause, as is normal with these kinds of transfers.
After his international debut against Denmark last Friday (which actually cost his dad, Truls, his job as Norway international chief football commentator for our country’s biggest newspaper, VG) praise was coming in thick and fast in Daehli’s direction. Danish coach Morten Olsen called him a “brilliant ball player”, and Norwegian captain stated that he needs to be picked for every game – all at the back of 30 minutes of football.
Solskjaer himself has previously also compared him to Paul Scholes, saying that his tenacity and flair reminds him of the retired pass master.
“Christian Eriksen is 21 and has 41 caps. And he made his debut at 18, like Mats,” Solskjaer said recently. “He can be cornerstone for the internationals for years.”
The former super-sub also have every reason to have faith in his new pupil. At 17, in his last season at Man United, Daelhi was awarded the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, joining players like Scholes and Ryan Giggs on the list of recipients of the trophy. What’s more, the short Norwegian won the honor ahead of this season Premier League breakthrough starlet – Adnan Januzaj.
Daehli was in fact said to be a superior dribbler to Januzaj. Preferring to play as a modern wide player, with the option to cut inside to have a shot or release a teammate through on goal, Daehli draws several similarities with the Belgian/Kosovan/Serb/Turk. They both have brilliant dribbling ability, and they’re both blessed with an explosive burst of pace over five yards.
Altough Daehli and Januzaj’s careers have taken slightly different trajectories, I see no reason why they couldn’t one day be reunited as the registas in Man United’s attacking line. John Carew told Norwegian broadcast channel TV2 that the Norwegian international team are lacking players from the big teams in the major European leagues.
In a few years, 11 stone of dribbling finesse might change that. Manchester United are frantically scouring the market for a creative midfielder. Perhaps Daehli is the answer.