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Jonathan Tuffey wants to foil Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Euro hopes

By Graham Luney

Jonny Tuffey feels Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's arrival in Northern Ireland for a European tie has added considerably more glamour to Glenavon's continental adventure.

The Manchester United legend will bring his Molde side to Mourneview Park for an intriguing Europa League first round qualifier.

Nicknamed 'The Baby-faced Assassin', the man who won six Premier League titles and two FA Cups with United can expect another warm welcome in Northern Ireland, particularly from the Old Trafford faithful who can recall him scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp - a goal which sealed Treble glory.

A few years earlier, in March 1996, Solskjaer netted in Norway's 2-0 friendly win over Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.

Current Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill played in that clash while the squad was managed by Bryan Hamilton.

Solskjaer (45) also joined then United boss Sir Alex Ferguson at the funeral of George Best in December 2005, saying: "I met George Best a few times. It was a great honour to be there. I felt the players should be represented."

It was a fitting tribute from one man who scored the winner in a European final to another who stunned Benfica in the 1968 decider at Wembley.

In 2008, Solskjaer returned to Northern Ireland to help launch the Milk Cup tournament, and when he brings the Norwegian runners-up back to these shores next month he can expect another hero's reception.

Molde reached the knockout stages of the 2015-16 Europa League, when they lost to Sevilla, but although their star has faded a little, Glenavon will still expect a daunting test.

"Ole coming here with his Molde team is a huge attraction, particularly for United fans, and hopefully it will bring a few more supporters to the game," said goalkeeper Tuffey.

"European football is a great platform for the players to show their talents and this is a really exciting tie for all of us.

"Ole is a legend for what he achieved with United and his winner in the 1999 final is still talked about. It's a huge plus for ourselves to be drawn against his team and even the neutral supporters will want to welcome him to Northern Ireland. Hopefully we will see good crowds at the games but there are two games of football to be played and we will focus on giving a good account of ourselves."

Coleraine have a trip to Serbia to face FK Spartak Subotica in their opener, while Cliftonville host Nordsjaelland of Denmark.

The Bannsiders' opponents finished fourth in the Serbian SuperLiga last season. This is only the second time Subotica have been in European competition, and it is an intriguing match-up for Oran Kearney's side. FC Nordsjaelland have Champions League experience in previous years but generally have not been so successful in Europe.

Derry City host Belarus side Dinamo Minsk, who finished second in their domestic league.

The ties are scheduled to be played on July 12 and July 19 but are subject to change. A place in the Europa League qualifying rounds is estimated to be worth at least £210,000 to each of the clubs.

If Cliftonville were to make it to the second qualifying round, they would face either League of Ireland side Shamrock Rovers or AIK, while Sparta Praha of the Czech Republic await the winners of Coleraine's tie.

Glenavon or Molde will take on Anorthosis Famagusta of Cyprus or Laci of Albania in qualifying round two, with Derry or Dinamo Minsk to play either Dunajska Streda of Slovakia or Georgian outfit Dinamo Tbilisi.

Crusaders will take on Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in the Champions League.

The Crues will be on their travels first for the opening leg on July 11 at 6pm (BST) with the Seaview clash on Tuesday, July 17 at 8pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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