By Leo Linden
Molde Fotballklubb, better known simply as Molde, came from humble beginnings to recently rise faster than most teams can in a small nation like Norway, and it has done so without the aid of an ownership takeover or a big-money investment. Now, MFK are in the midst of a transition season, and while they did experience some recent lows in addition to their successes, they have since bounced out of that slump brilliantly.
Founded 105 years ago, Molde’s were originally nicknamed as an international club because of many of their opponents coming off of cruise ships and other boats which were stopping in Norway for one reason or another. When the club finally did establish itself in the Norwegian football system, it got off to an extremely slow start. Playing in regional leagues before and after the Second World War, Molde’s supporters and investors could have never have predicted the upturn they would experience through the second half of the century.
MFK began to slowly work its way up the ladder, and after a one-year stint in the then non-unified top flight (the first division was a conglomerate of regional groups, with the winners coming together at the end of the season to crown a champion) in 1948, Molde again assumed its place in the lower leagues.
Another quick trip to the top division ensued in the 1957-58 season, but again, Molde was not able to solidify their presence in Norway’s elite. That would change slightly in 1964, when Molde defeated then-powerhouse Fredrikstad in the third round of the domestic cup, advancing farther in the tournament than the club had to that point. They were still in the third flight, but after earning a promotion to the second tier in 1970, MFK parlayed their newfound status into a big triumph just three years later, when they cracked into the Norwegian First Division.
The end of the 1970s saw one of the strangest periods in the club’s history, as relegations in 1978, 1980, and 1982 were offset by promotions in 1979, 1981, and 1983, leaving the club back where is started in the top flight.
This time, however, Molde found consistent success, rising as high as second in 1987, losing the title by just three points to Moss. Another pair of odd seasons in 1993 and 1994 changed things a bit for MFK, as the former saw financial trouble that forced the side to sell assets and, subsequently, their first relegation in over a decade. But not only did the side immediately bounce back to the top flight, they also captured their first-ever major trophy, winning the Norwegian Cup after beating fellow second-tier side Lyn in the final after defeating heavily favored Rosenborg on aggregate in the semis.
Throughout the decade following that promotion, Molde came excruciatingly close to winning their first ever Tippeligaen, coming runners-up four times in an eight-year stretch. To make matters worse, Rosenborg, who was becoming a big rival, was the team that topped them all four of those years. However, maybe more importantly, during one of the years they came second best, 1995, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made his debut, and though he left the club
In 2005, a second cup victory was achieved, but only adding to the team's strangeness, Molde were relegated the following season. True to form, however, they bounced back immediately and for good, as Molde have ascended and thrown off the Norwegian football status quo.
After being runners up in the both the league and cup in in 2009, things looked bright for MFK, but again they couldn’t find consistency, dropping to 11th the following season. That turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise, though, as a change of management led to the club bringing in Solskjaer to right the ship.
He did so immediately. In his first year in charge, Solskjaer led MFK to their first-ever Tippeligaen title, besting Tromso by five points. Another title followed in 2012, and though they couldn’t complete a three-peat the following year, they still took home hardware by winning their third Norwegian cup.
They did reach the pinnacle again in 2014, taking home their third league trophy in four years, but Solskjaer left in the offseason for what would be a failed experiment at Cardiff City. It hurt Molde, too, and after the club slipped to sixth place in the league in 2015, Solskjaer returned home to coach MFK once again.
This year, however, has been a rocky one, although it now looks to be back on track. After a solid start which saw them sitting in the top three, Molde earned just one point in six games from May to early August, dropping out of the title race and all the way down to ninth. Solskjaer has found a way to turn it all around, though, and four straight wins now have Molde in fifth place, but just a point out of second.
There are only eight games left in the season, and given the way they are trending, there’s no reason Molde can’t take over the second spot. And if Solskjaer can keep adding pieces from outside the country, with the club currently having multiple Americans, Senegalese and Brazilians on the squad, they could soon find themselves in a place to compete in Europe, maybe not for titles, but through the group stages at the least.