Managers are basically the 12th players in the squad. They get arguably the most credit and the most hate depending on how the club fares. The responsibilities are endless, especially in a league like the PL - arguably the toughest one in the world. Fans on one side, the Board on one side, the media on one and the final exit is blocked by the players. A manager needs mental fortitude like a dying fish needs water; the only way to survive. Sackings are a looming threat and the bigger they are, the harder they fall and almost no one’s big enough that they simply cannot fall - it has happened to the best. Then there’s the English League. Arguably the toughest league as mentioned earlier, where almost every team has lofty expectations and more than a few good prospects to utilize. But even with all that conflict, there have been managers who have stood strong when all the dust settled. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the English League’s best managers of all time.
(Take note that this extends to even before it was called the Premier League and thus the First Division might be referred to as the PL for the sake of convenience)
10. Claudio Ranieri
A manager who has changed sides more times than you can enter digits in a calculator. While that may appear a downside at first, it takes the best to turn that into a positive. He took all those accumulated experiences and achieved something spectacular: He won the league with Leicester City. The team was facing relegation in the 2014-15 season where they were only 6 points clear off the top of the dreaded bottom 3. He brought in N’golo Kante for £ 5.7 million in one of the best bargains in football and he adapted their playstyle and played football that was balanced on both defence and offence. Leicester conceded less than 1 goal per game and scored less than only Tottenham and Man City. The Vardy-Mahrez-Kante combo was deadly and as a result, the team that faced relegation won the League title shocking every football fan around the world.
9. Mauricio Pochettino
Perhaps the most deceptive entry on the list considering the lack of trophies. But trophies aren’t everything. He made Tottenham into a force to be reckoned with. Yet to slip from the top 6 despite the departure of Modric and Bale, Pochettino is one of, if not the most coveted manager in world football. Not afraid to play attacking football and more focused on player development over headline transfers, he is perhaps the most reliable manager at the moment. He took Tottenham to their first ever UCL final and finished 3rd this season all without spending a dime on buying players. And he’s only 47. No one would be surprised if he made it to no.1 on this list a few years down the line but for now, no.9 it is.
8. Carlo Ancelotti
The only manager to have won the UCL 3 times and reach 4 finals, Carlo Ancelotti’s track record is what every budding manager strives toward. In 2009, he succeeded interim manager Guus Hiddink for the job and even though it was a short tenure (till 2011), it was sweet. He took a Chelsea that was fractured and turned it into the highest scoring side in the PL with his attack intensive style of play. Because of that, he won the PL, FA Cup and Community Shield despite the small amount of time. His sacking was surely surprising, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the last (unfair maybe?) one for him.
7. Roberto Mancini
Manchester City are among the deadliest clubs in the League, having the PL for two years in a row now. They have some of the best players in the game and every team prepares for the worst when facing them. This presence can be traced back to none other than Roberto Mancini. He was there at the helm when Manchester City transitioned from a mid-table team to league leaders. In the 2010-11 season, Mancini got the club their first FA Cup in 35 years but that was only the beginning. His biggest and most historic moment came in the following season where under his iron fist, Man City won their first League title in 44 years. He set the precedent for what the club is known for now and that is the fact that if your team faces Man City, it’s probably not going to win. You could criticize the fact that he had the influx of cash but to counter that, he did utilize it to make history and you couldn’t ask for any better.
6. Sir Matt Busby
The Scotsman managed Manchester United from 1945 to 1969. His built side which centered around youth dubbed the Busby Babes were legendary, bagging 3 First Division Titles and 1 FA Cup. If you know your football history, you would know about the dreadful Munich air disaster that took the lives of 8 Man United players from the side, all of which were among the Busby Babes. But being the manager he was, he didn’t give up and as a result, the rebuilt Man United went on to win 2 League titles and 2 FA Cups; but most importantly they won the European Cup a decade later cementing him as one of the greatest managers in the PL.
5. Brian Clough
Brian Clough is among the rare breed of people who were legendary both as a player( for his goal scoring) and a manager. He started out with Derby County in the 2nd division(where he made a large number of signings and sackings) and took them to the first. That wasn’t all as he took them all the way to the top there as well where he won the 1st division title. It was all Deja Vu at Nottingham Forest where he went on to win the League after being promoted from the 2nd division. He also won the European Cup with them twice in succession. Taking a team that’s in the 2nd division all the way to the top of English football is something that is unheard of and that’s putting it lightly and Brian Clough did it with two different teams.
4. Jose Mourinho
Despite his sacking at Man United looming over everyone’s minds when his name pops up, you cannot deny Mourinho’s greatness. He is simply one of the greatest managers of all time. He has won a mammoth 17 titles because of his adaptability and general strategic prowess. His ability for quick thinking is second to none. He didn’t take Chelsea’s modern golden generation; he molded and refined Chelsea’s great players into the golden generation, focusing greatly on the central midfield. He won the Premier League thrice with Chelsea along with 1 FA Cup, 4 League Cups, and 1 Community Shield. He also won the Community Shield with Manchester United later on. That’s not all as he did hold the record for the most points in a PL season(95 points at the time), with Chelsea. It’s clear to understand why he’s considered to be among the best in the business.
3. Arsene Wenger
The only man that comes to mind when you put ‘Arsenal’ and ‘manager’ in the same sentence and most of the time, just ‘Arsenal’ is all it takes. The Frenchman managed the North London side from 1996 to 2018 and was a large part of cultivating the club’s prestige. He is known for structurally bettering the club with routine changes and player development while also having a fantastic vision for young talent. Two years after his appointment, he led the club to a Premier League title and FA cup double. With Arsenal, he won 3 league titles, 7 FA Cups and 6 Community Shields. He is credited for recruiting and building a large chunk of the club and the League’s greatest players like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and Robin Van Persie.
2. Bob Paisley
The Englishman was one of only two managers to have won the European Cup 3 times. He went from Liverpool player, to reserve team coach and physiotherapist and eventually to the manager. He was part of the crowd that took Liverpool to the top after they were relegated to the 2nd division. Bill Shankly was the manager during the harsh time. He took over as manager in 1974 and his subsequent career was nothing short of marvelous. He won 20 titles in 9 years. He won six League Championships, three League Cups, six Charity Shields, three European Cups, one UEFA Cup, and one UEFA Super Cup. He won ‘Manager of the Year’ a record 6 times. Gargantuan efforts and achievements to say the least and a top 3 finish was almost guaranteed.
1. Sir Alex Ferguson
Who didn’t see this coming? The Manchester United manager might just be the greatest manager of all time. He is the golden standard for all managers. Goes without saying that he is among the most(if not the most) successful managers in football history. He managed Manchester United from 1986 to 2013 favouring attack-based football and won them more trophies than one could count. He has produced some of the greatest players in the game. During his tenure, he won 38 titles with the Red Devils turning them into the household name that ends other household names. No matter how big the manager, Sir Ales Ferguson’s achievements will probably always dwarf his. He won 13 Premier Leagues, 5 FA Cups and 2 UCLs. Those are not stats for the team throughout history but just the manager himself. He won the PL three times in a row twice, the only manager to do so. Producing and refining greats like Edwin Van Der Sar, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo, his influence knows no bounds. A Legend among legends, only the no.1 spot is fit for Sir Alex Ferguson.