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Is Ferguson the greatest ever?

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Phil McNulty | 14:29 UK time, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson's lasting legacy to Manchester United cannot be accurately measured until the day he retires - but one simple truth is already beyond dispute as he celebrates his 25th anniversary at the club.

Ferguson may be a divisive figure to some without a strong allegiance to Old Trafford, but even those who temper their admiration for the Scot cannot contest his right to be regarded among the finest managers football has known.

When the list of great managers is compiled, Ferguson's name will be near the top of some lists and at the top of others, alongside the founding father of United, Sir Matt Busby, Liverpool's Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, the maverick Brian Clough at Derby and Nottingham Forest and his own inspiration, former Celtic and Scotland manager Jock Stein.

Tottenham fans will make a case for double-winner Bill Nicholson and Leeds United fans revere Don Revie while Ferguson's long-time adversary Arsene Wenger's early successes put his indelible stamp on Arsenal.

Former England manager Graham Taylor was a Division One rival of Ferguson's at Watford when he arrived from Aberdeen in November 1986 - and he has no hesitation when asked where he ranks Ferguson.

He told BBC Sport: "I think he is the all-time great manager. You can't compare his era to another you can only contrast it, because the comparisons are not fair. There are so many other different things to take into consideration.

"But if you look at those other eras and contrast them and see what each manager has done then I think he is the number one. He has proved to be the best manager in the history of football."

Victory in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich to secure the Treble is probably Ferguson's greatest achievement. Photo: Getty

Former Liverpool captain Alan Hansen won three European Cups, two under Paisley, and is understandably more guarded about where he places Ferguson in the managerial order of merit.

He said: "Of course people will want to compare Alex with the great manager I played under at Liverpool, Bob Paisley. It is so hard to make those comparisons and everyone will have a different opinion shaped by their own experiences and even the club they support, but it is safe to say they were and are both magnificent servants to Liverpool and Manchester United - iconic figures at their clubs.

"Bob won the Uefa Cup in 1976 when it was not ranked too far behind the European Cup, then he won the European Cup in 1977, 1978 and 1981. Four huge European trophies in five years while picking up league titles as well.

"Alex's record in the League and FA Cup is phenomenal and he has taken Manchester United to four Champions League finals, winning two and, also winning the Cup Winners' Cup with both Aberdeen and United - a brilliant and prolonged track record of success. You can argue the merits but both have the record of sustained success to be regarded as magnificent managers."

Walter Smith, Ferguson's long-time friend from Glasgow and assistant with Scotland at the 1986 World Cup and for a brief spell at United in 2004, told BBC Sport: "I don't think there is any doubt that Alex will go down as one of the greatest managers there has ever been.

"As a manager he has a fantastic instinct for what is right, whether it is tactics, team selection or changing things when a game is going on. When you work with him you realise this, and this is part of what has made him so successful."

What separates Ferguson from the other managers on that illustrious roll of honour is the scale of his success at Manchester United over such a lengthy period, from his appointment 25 years ago through his first success with the FA Cup in 1990 and their current status as record 19-time League champions.

Ferguson has nurtured many players from the youth academy, including the class of 92. Photo: Getty

Taylor said: "To reach a landmark of 25 years at one club is the result of tremendous perserverance and a complete belief that what you are doing is right. Criticism from certain people may upset him because he might not regard them as football experts but he will listen and take things on board - he will have to because the game has undergone so many changes in the last 25 years.

"He must be very highly motivated and have a real drive. Alex himself will probably admit that one of his few mistakes was when he announced his retirement. He pulled out of that but at the time he was probably just a bit tired, which is perfectly understandable.

"Alex will have learned to delegate a lot more. Clubs, certainly clubs like Manchester United, are too big for even someone like Alex to be in charge of every department, but for the important final decisions it will come back to him.

"One of his greatest assets has been to move with the times in football. With the formation of the Premier League, the more intensive coverage, and the number of games in the Champions League, you really have to be on the ball and you learn that art of delegation over day-to-day matters.

"This will have been so important and his selection of people to work with has been very good. He is able to let them get on with their jobs but when it is a major football decision it all comes back to him.

"People ask how a man approaching his 70th birthday and after 25 years at Manchester United can still find a way to drive himself on every morning - being successful helps for a start but he must also have great strength of character. In that respect Alex is pretty much unique.

"Once he won the FA Cup in 1990 and the European Cup Winners' Cup against Barcelona the following year he was on his way. He has maintained that success level ever since and not too many years pass by without Manchester United winning something.

"I think it is difficult to see anybody ever repeating his length of time at one club in this day and age, in fact I would say it is nigh on impossible."

The old football adage of "show us your medals" is often used to measure a man's standing in the game.

Taylor's response is simple: "If anyone ever wants to put that to the test with Alex, it would need a very big table to accommodate those medals."


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  • Comment number 1.

    For longevity and what he has achieved in that time; yes he is. Brilliant man managment and the ability to rebuild teams over decades. There have been managers who have achieved more over a shorter period of time though and there have been times where Ferguson's tactics have been outshone by fleeting rivals.

    I have no doubt that all comments from Man U fans will say he is the best. All Liverpool fans will say Paisley etc.

  • Comment number 2.

    He is often compared to that same list of managers. People look at relative achievements but there are two points that no one mentions in these comparisons. Firstly, no one on that list had to compete with clubs with a bottomless pit of money. He won the league in '93 & '94 and then in '96 & '97. Blackburn won in '95. Without Jack Walker's funding of Blackburn it's conceivable that he could have won 5 in a row and then repeated that in the last 5 years were it not for Abramovich.

    Secondly, since the mid '90s he's been competing with managers like Wenger, Houlier, Benitez, Ranieri, Mourinho, Scolari, Hiddink, Ancelotti. There are a lot of the world's top managers in that list, people who have won things, leagues, Champions Leagues. Can you imagine if SAF only had to compete with the likes of Allardyce, Redknapp, Curbishley, O'Neill, O'Leary like the the others on that list did?

  • Comment number 3.

    It's so rare that a manager can spend such a long period at a top club like Utd. These days managers are getting the sack after a sting of poor results. SAF was thankfully given time to set Utd on the right course and we have all seen the results of his efforts.

    Utd have been fortunate to have had two of the greatest managers around in SAF and Sir Matt. Whoever does replace SAF has very big boots to fill.

  • Comment number 4.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 5.

    Who did Phil give us to choose from/compare against?

    Sir Matt Busby
    Bill Shankly
    Bob Paisley
    Brian Clough
    Jock Stein

    All British managers. A typical myopic outlook. Here's some other names to compare against

    Helenio Herrera
    Marcello Lippi
    Vicente Del Bosque
    Johan Cruyff
    Giovanni Trapattoni
    Ottmar Hitzfeld
    Arsene Wenger
    Rinus Michels

  • Comment number 6.

    5. And mainly Scottish! I'd add Capello to your list as well.

  • Comment number 7.

    There is no doubt Ferguson is one of the greatest managers of all time, people talk about his success with Man United, but his success with Aberdeen, to break the stranglehold of the Old Firm on the Scottish league, as well as making their mark in european competition has to be recognised as well.

    It will always be arguable who is the best. People will always argue he's not the best because he took so long to win trophies and other managers like Bob Paisley won so much in so little time. Others would argue he's stayed in his comfort zone in Britain and not won trophies in several leagues like Giovanni Trapattoni or Jose Mourinho.

    I hope he will be around for at least another 5 years, as he is building something special again with the youngsters coming through at United and want to see it finished.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    He's alright I suppose, buthe aint half as good as David Beckham, aint that right BBC ?

  • Comment number 10.

    @4.At 08:43 3rd Nov 2011, The Tenth Beetle wrote:

    "But his biggest achievement must be taking a small club like Aberdeen and turning them into a team who dominated Celtic and Rangers AND won European trophies"

    I wish people would stop buying into the notion that Sir Alex took Aberdeen from being a small club to the top.

    In the year before he took over at Pittodrie, Aberdeen finished second in the league. Sir Alex’s first season was pretty underwhelming, even though he took over a team with the likes of Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan, Jim Leighton, Joe Harper, Mark McGhee and Willie Miller. A pretty good squad for a small team.

  • Comment number 11.

    The simple fact is that Ferguson has won more meaningful titles than any other manager. He has lasted longer, and created more winning teams.

    You can compare him to anyone you want, but his record speaks for itself.

    He stands alone......

  • Comment number 12.

    5.At 08:51 3rd Nov 2011, It wasnt me A big boy did it and ran away wrote:

    "All British managers. A typical myopic outlook. Here's some other names to compare against".

    I believe Phil is trying to get across that he is one of the great British managers, you doylem.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Paisley was great but he took over a better situation from Shankly than Ferguson took over from Ron Atkinson (!). Man Utd were pretty average in 1986, and had been for a while. Ferguson's achievements have to be ranked #1 because he has had multiple periods of success and every time it tails off, he has rebuilt successfully.

  • Comment number 15.

    @12.At 09:33 3rd Nov 2011, Goals-Galore wrote:

    "I believe Phil is trying to get across that he is one of the great British managers"

    The title is "Greatest of all time", not "Greatest British manager of all time". Try reading the article before you start throwing your own opinions around as if only your understanding is correct.

  • Comment number 16.

    Excellent points made by Walter Smith (and noted by all those who've worked with him), he has the ability to manage by instinct and change the course of a game as required while it's being played. And a great point @#2 as well - the English football media have hyped up many supposed Ferguson rivalries down the years, largely because they resent the fact that Ferguson has little or no time for most of what they [the English football media] stand for, particularly with their tittle-tattle agendas. And here we are 25 yrs later and he's still the manager of the league champions and he's pretty much seen them all off. Nice of Dalglish to bring his ego back for one last go btw, but he'll fail at Liverpool for at least as long as Ferguson keeps going, there's no question about that.

    As an aside, when people list his achievements they continue generally to ignore some major ones for some reason:

    First and still the only manager ever to win 3 league titles on the trot in English football history - he's done it twice.

    The first manager ever to win the Double twice in English football history (it was still rightly considered a major achievement at that time)

    First and only manager to win the Treble in English football history

    First and still only manager in English football history to win the Intercontinental Cup/World Club Cup (played down in England still, but rightly celebrated elsewhere)

    It's also generally overlooked that he brought through the class of 92 over a period of - at a stretch - 5 seasons, from Ryan Giggs in autumn 1991 to the 2nd Double in 1996, and certainly 2 seasons, from the end of the 1st Double. Noticed Alan Hansen's piece yesterday, and should point out that Ferguson spoke many years ago now about how there wasn't much wrong with what Hansen had said, other than that it highlighted just how little Hansen knew about the players coming through at United over the previous few years - '[we] knew how good they were, he didn't'. The question wasn't in what Hansen had said in general, but in why he said it about that group of players. Hansen reckons it made him as a pundit, and I'd suggest that that is probably not far off the truth - that comment set the standards that so many have followed at the BBC since!

  • Comment number 17.

    Bob Paisley's record in 9 years as manager: six league titles, three European cups, one Uefa cup, three league cups, five community shields, one uefa super cup.

    Pick any 9 year period in Fergie's utd career and it will give you an inferior trophy haul.

    Fergie is a truly great manager without a doubt but Sir Bob is also the only manager, of ANY nationality, to win the European Cup THREE times.

    End of debate.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sportsfan, I've missed something about del Bosque, what's he done?

  • Comment number 19.

    Ferguson is the greatest of the SKY era, an era where depth of competition to United has been an embarrassment. Which teams have won the title in the last 6 years ? United and Chelsea, how many others have won it this century ? Arsenal

    An indication of how poor domestically the opposition has been is how many Champions leagues have United won ? 2.

    1970/1980's - Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Derby, Notts Forest, Aston Villa, Leeds all won the title, the likes of Watford, Southampton had their moments whilst Robson's Ipswich were good enough to lift a European trophy and compete at the same time.

    Ferguson is a brilliant man manager, who else has been able to maintain some control over the prima donnas that today pose as part time footballers ? No one, on that score he is the top but in terms of greatest on field achievements, no.

    Oh, and didnt 3 different teams win the European Cup during the 77-84 period, plus Everton almost doing the treble in 1985 ?

    Look at the opposition to United over the last 20 years ..............

    Look at United's record in Europe over the same 20 years...............

    Ferguson's greatest achievement has not been at Old Trafford, its been at Aberdeen where he broke up the two team so called mickey mouse league up there, down here, he has been part of one of two teams (Arsenal pre 2000 / Chelsea post 2000) in a league that is just an uncompetitive as the one up North, yet we have the cheek to call that league Mickey Mouse.

    Great in many respects yes, and admired for those areas but not the greatest.

  • Comment number 20.

    As an Arsenal fan, it pains me to say it, but yes he is the greatest ever. Definitely in British football and most likely in world football. In terms of trophies won (which is the standard by which all managers are measured), he is unparallelled in English football.

    I truly dislike the man but there is no denying his brilliance. He has responded to all things that supposedly would derail Man United (selling Beckham/selling Ronaldo etc) and continued to win trophies.

    That hurt to write.

  • Comment number 21.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm not sure it's possible to assess who the greatest manager of all time is. What is the criteria? For sheer durability and amount of trophies, then yes, it's Ferguson. But amount of top trophies won over a short period of time - it's Paisley. Or for the achivement of winning the game's top trophies at small clubs, it's Clough. I lean towards Clough, a managerial genius. He kept Nottingham Forest in the top half of the table throughout the 1980's, in the presence of bigger, better financed clubs, and they were still winning trophies and getting to cup finals up until 1992. In it's own way, this is as much an achievement as keeping a rich, world-wide giant like Manchester Utd challenging for honours over the past 10 years. Where Fergie really showed his genius was during the 1990's when he built successful teams up not by spending big money, but by well-judged transfers and a good youth policy.

    @14 - you forget that the Manchester Utd Ferguson took over weren't in a bad way. Under Ron Atkinson, they'd won the FA Cup twice in four years and had finished in the top four each year, the equivalent of qualifying for the Champions League today. Only a year before Fergie took over, Utd had won their first 10 league games of the season. Admittedly they'd made a bad start to the 1986-1987 season, hence Atkinson's sacking, but we still have to remember that Ferguson took over a giant of English football in decent health. This is in no way to undermine Fergie's achivements.

  • Comment number 23.

    United fan here: Ferguson has won more than any biritsh manager, he is simply the best manager in British history.

    Liverpool fans think Paisley I always say Shankley was the best Liverpool manager, Paisley took Shankley's team to success. But Ferguson has built and succeeded with 4/5 different teams. Paisley created success with one and left.

    Clough is another who had success with one great Forest team then could never reach those dizzy heights again. This is the reason why for me Ferguson is the best.

  • Comment number 24.

    @22 Good post, sums it up quite well. Use a different criteria to judge who is the greatest and you get a different result.

  • Comment number 25.

    SIMPLE - Ferguson, Money, edwards + sky 100 mill spend a season - a domestic trophy is expected and any half decent manager could do it.

    2 european cups in 25 years with that money and players at his disposal - a disgrace - as a "world class" manager im sorry no! He hasnt done it in euope and dominated like LFC did, or Milan, Madrid or Juve or now Barca

    Very good domestic manager - yes, world class? NO

    And people compare him to Paisleys stature???? Please........ dont offend Bob!

    ps @ TheTrawler - "only team to win the treble" LFC did it in 1984 with a far far far better team ("yeah but we won the fa cup blah blah blah and urs was the league cup" - A CUPS A CUP

  • Comment number 26.

    17 & 19

    Both these arguments has its merits and both has its flaws.

    I would suggest that the mere fact that Nottingham Forest (twice) and Aston Villa both won the European Cup during that same era of English domination makes the achievement of winning it 3 times into perspective. It certainly holds up as an extension of the same argument made in #19 anyway.

    The European Cup had also been won 3 times on the trot by just 2 clubs over 6 years before that English domination as well. Compare that with the modern era, and you see that not a single team has retained the trophy for over two decades. Now either football has got worse, or competition has increased hugely.

    As for the cheap point about Ferguson dominating the Sky years, it should be pointed out that his first 3 trophies (4 if you include the Super Cup), plus the FA Youth Cup in 92 all came before the first Sky deal, and that United were within a whisker of winning the title in 1992 as well - their domination had already begun.

  • Comment number 27.

    Wavertreenook - HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    How will Carragher and Gerrrad feel never winning the title poor guys hahahahahaha.....

  • Comment number 28.

    Can't really argue against him being the greatest of the modern era. Although many managers abroad have had successful stints none of them have had the longevity of Ferguson. His record speaks for itself really.

    It's a bit difficult to compare him to managers from decades ago though, the game has simply changed too much. Nobody now would be able to do what Clough did and take Championship teams to league titles and European Cups, the nature of the game has just changed too much. Likewise, had Ferguson managed 30 years earlier his United team wouldn't have dominated as they would have, his undoubted brilliance has been against a backdrop of fantastic commercial management from the club allowing him the best resources, something that happened on a level nowhere near that in the 60s and 70s. Undoubtedly it'll provoke angry reactions, but had Liverpool's success come a decade later, at the time of the inception of Sky Sports and the Premier League, they might well be the dominant force in the Premier League now, who knows. Ferguson's record is unbelievable and he is a fantastic manager, but times have changed far too much to be able to realistically compare him with many of those managers.

  • Comment number 29.

    Very opinionated The Trawler - must get all those lovely facts from the interweb, been to old trafford as many times as taggart has won the european cup

  • Comment number 30.

    In the popular imagination, the name of Sir Alex Ferguson is and will be for a very long time synonymous with great football management, but there are some very serious rivals to any claim that he is the greatest of all time. I don't think Brian Clough deserves the 'maverick' tag Mr McNulty; i reckon, like Harry Redknapp (not least when Sven was appointed), he was unjustly passed over for the England manager's job. His record with Nottingham Forest and Derby County is absolutely spectacular. Then of course there are the others you mention, not least Bob Paisley - and internationally i rate Franz Beckenbauer. The general public ususually have a somewhat skewed impression of who the best players are, and there's bound to be a similar impression of managers. Having said that, although i didn't think so at the time, i now think he's well worth his knighthood.

    By the way; get well soon Harry Redknapp!

  • Comment number 31.

    If you're only going to look at England for great managers and tactical innovation I'm afraid you're going to miss a very very large part of the whole picture.

    Michels, Herrera, Lobanovskiy, Maslov, Sacchi, Hogan...

  • Comment number 32.

    22 In fairness, Atkinson left behind him a bit of a shambles. His squad got into a position to challenge every season he was there, and folded each time. Yeah those FA Cups still live with me now and there was some superb football along the way, far better than the 5-4-1 and long ball rubbish we saw too much in Fergie's early days. But Ferguson had to rebuild from the ground up.

    23 That is the crux of it for me. The trophies represent the success, but it's the longevity and the incredible achievement of building 4 or 5 winning teams that marks out the man.

    25 Everyone knows what the Treble is, and it doesn't include the League Cup.

  • Comment number 33.

    So - all these "man u fans and season ticket holders on here" in torquay, domestically aside as the points have been made about taggart on that front.

    25 years, 2 european cups? Happy? Happy that you arent concidered in the elite of the european cup? The fact that you arent up there with LFC, Madrid, bayern, ajax must hurt!

  • Comment number 34.

    #17 robmiller667 wrote:

    “Sir Bob is also the only manager, of ANY nationality, to win the European Cup THREE times.’

    The Liverpool team of the 70s and 80s was excellent. However the European Cup was much easier to win compared with today’s equivalent. They played half as many games, maybe fewer, all on a knockout basis. Aston Villa even won it. Everton would have won 2 or 3 if they’d been allowed to compete.

    “End of debate”. Hardly.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yep, best of all time for me.

    I can understand the argument for Bob Paisley being the greatest given his exceptional achievements listed above. But if we are saying that managerial greatness is defined by how many trophies won in the shortest possible timespan, the greatest manager ever would be Pep Guardiola.

    What seperates Ferguson is the relentless desire to win, win, and win again. Then when the team he is using is spent and it looks like United are waning, he rebuilds a new team and wins everything with that one. That refusal to be second best, over such a long period of time, is just incredible.

  • Comment number 36.

    29 I'm pretty sure I saw Bob Paisley's Liverpool team more times than you. Don't bother replying.

  • Comment number 37.

    Trawler - "the treble" only included the FA cup to suit man yoooo!

    When we won it, it was called the treble then, because man yooo say thats the treble it must be true!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Trawler - I was in rome 84, been a season ticket holder since i was a teenager, and believe me if you can hear me in Torquay, fergie aint no world class manager.

  • Comment number 39.

    Wavertreenook - Which would you rather win the FA Cup or the League Cup?

  • Comment number 40.

    Great, another Liverpool fan in Plymouth gobbing off on the internet

    Bob Paisley wasn't manager of Liverpool in 1984 btw. Hope this helps.

  • Comment number 41.

    So how do a bunch of football fans try to answer the question and remain objective.... hmmm

    Liverpool in the 80s were a special case, they seemed to be able to develop managers who continued the team and club ethos - I don't really put that down solely to the managers but also give a deal of credit to those who created the framework from which these managers emerged. That is not to undermine their achievements but it does share the credit around.

    Clough, well he was a one off and he is hard to compare against anything else today. I don't think he would survive in today's football where there is too much player power - Clough demanded that he was the one with power and his minions were to do his bidding.

    Throughout this era there were no clubs to which all the talent gravitated. Today there are 5 or 6 clubs who have huge wealth which they wield in the transfer market, ensuring that the cream of talent is concentrated in a relatively small pool. You only need to look at the finalists in the last 5 years in the Champions league to see this point coming through in results. It is therefore harder to win the champions league when your opposition has bottomless pockets.

    Many compare Bob Paisley to Ferguson, but this is never going to get a concensus as has been mentioned already - Liverpool fans will never agree that there was anyone better. We will never know.

    Just to try and clear up the Champions League data though:

    United have played more games and won more games in the champions league than any other team (more qualifications and more extended runs to the knockout stages) and Ferguson has the best champions league record of any current or past manager (2 Wins, 2 Runners up).

    Who is the best - I don't know. But there is a category that sits above great and it is "Iconic".

    There are only 2 British managers in this category.

  • Comment number 42.

    People underestimate Arsene Wenger at their peril.

  • Comment number 43.

    Its right that MUFC fans will say Fergie and LFC fans will say Paisley (maybe Shankley) but when you have two really successful managers like the two of them there is no real way to compare. As an example, take the European Cup/Champions League. Yes Paisley won 3 of them BUT in total they only had to play 25 games to do so. In Fergies 2 wins Man Utd had to play 26 games. If you take 1977 as an example Liverpool had a bye in the first round and then played Dinamo Dresden in the 2nd round (6-3 on aggregate), Benfica in the quarter final (4-1), Borussia Monchengladbach in the semis (3-0) and Club Brugges in the final (1-0). Compare this to 1999 when United played LKS Lodz, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Brondby all twice just to get to the quarter finals where they met Inter Milan, then Juventus in the semis and then Bayern Munich again in the final you would say Fergies first win involved more and a lot tougher set of matches than Paisleys. BUT (yes another one) Manchester United didn't even win the Premier League in 98/98 so qualified for the Champions League 99 without being champions of their country, which in Paisleys days wouldn't have even got you in to the tournament unless you had won it the year before. So like I say when you have 2 really successful managers like these two there is no way to compare, although everyone else on Phil's last are way back in the distance.

  • Comment number 44.

    Trawler - that wasnt the question, I was talking about our treble in 84 and the fact i was there.

    And secondly, my username is a clue - go on google earth and type "wavertree" in liverpool and bead your torquay eyes across the map to anfield which is 2 miles......hardly plymouth is it?

  • Comment number 45.

    TheTrawler - I am a united fan but mate you're boring me with your 'facts' which you blatently didn't just pop off the top off your head.

    But Wavertreenook you're just a bitter Liverpool fan who hates the fact you are no longer teh mnost successful club in English football

  • Comment number 46.

    45 Being "a United fan" doesn't make you interesting, pal. Bore off.

  • Comment number 47.

    Here is my top 10 greatest managers of all time

    Rinus Michels - the mastermind behind "Total Football"

    Helenio Herrera - pioneered work in developing nutrition and psychology in football and one of the most highly respected managers in world football

    Arrigo Sacchi - constructed one of the best club sides to have ever graced Italian football

    Valeriy Lobanovskyi - the greatest technical pioneer of them all

    Brian Clough - took a second-tier club to two European cups

    Bill Shankly - the first manager since Herbert Chapman to truly revolutionise football management in the UK

    Sir Alexander Ferguson - sheer durability and amount of trophies

    Bob Paisley - few managers have been able to match the relentless success

    Carlos Bianchi - almost certainly the finest South American coach there has ever been

    Jock Stein - won the European cup with what was little more than a pub side


  • Comment number 48.

    Comment 16: On a point of order, SAF has not won The Treble, which consits of the league and both DOMESTIC cups. He won A treble in 1999 if you include the CL however by that logice Liverpool won a quadruple in 2001 (quintuple if you count the Supercup, sextuple if you count the charity shield). Since you won't find many Liverpool fans playing semantics I don't think we should afford United fans the luxury.

  • Comment number 49.

    Best British manager ever!
    I expected our Liverpool friends to mention Uncle Bob,but be honest..Fergie broke the Glasgow domination and then demolished the Liverpool empire. Paisley took over a ready made team and hardly had to add to the squad which had just won the FA Cup. In contrast,within 3rs of his arrival at Old Trafford,only Bryan Robson remained.
    In 86,Everton had a very good team don't forget and of course Arsenal were Champs in 89/91,so the competition was there then and has been much in evident since. He has seen off Wenger,Mourinho,Ancelloti,Ranieri and countless others who thought they were good enough. He has seen off the millions Walker and Roman brought into the game and is in the middle of battling the Arab who has more money than some countries.
    He has lasted 25yrs at United and is now 37yrs as a manager.
    I always thought that Sir Matt's achievements would never be bettered and only for Munich perhaps they would still stand supreme..but the man from Govan has re-written the record books and he stands above everyone.
    Clough,Paisley and Chapman complete a great Nap.


  • Comment number 50.

    TonyBlair ha ha of course im a bitter liverpool fan, scouser, live 2 miles from the ground - im never going to give credit to them without finding a weakness first.

    the blog is, is he the greatest manager, and all the southern man u fans with their blinkers dont like that its a big NO.

    Ive give credit to domestically yes, he's in the top 3, but over 25 years with money!

    But to call him the greatest ever manager is wrong, and yet again i will compare to paisley 3 euro cups in 6 seasons aswell as domestic domination. NO ONE, NO ONE will ever do that again - forget all the garbage of its a different game now etc, because we will be on here in 10 years saying the same about man u's treble etc in 1999.

    Not because im a lfc fan, but im looking forward to when taggart retires to see how the club go'll be an intresting time

  • Comment number 51.

    "2 European Cups in 25yrs"
    Erm....thanks to certain fans at Heysel..English fans were banned for 4 of those years!
    When the ban was overturned..Fergie won the ECWC first season.

  • Comment number 52.

    48 So you think the Charity Shield is the equivalent of the Champions League? Come off it. The domestic treble has never been won in England, even by Ferguson, but let's just say that the Treble is for most people the top 3 available trophies, and that the list of winners in Europe is pretty short: Celtic, Ajax, PSV, Manchester United, Internazionale & Barcelona.

  • Comment number 53.

    Paisley is so overrated by scousers its unbelievable.

    Dominated a weak league and much easier to win European competition for a handful of years with a team already at the top and built thanks to another man.

    If paisley had been in charge of liverpool in the 90's or 00's he would have been dominated and outclassed by SAF.

    Competent manager but lacks the longevity and ability to be considered alongside SAF, who build his own success and in has done it against much stiffer competition both domestically and in Europe.

  • Comment number 54.

    #51 Heysel? What's that all about then? ;-}

  • Comment number 55.

    @50.At 10:43 3rd Nov 2011, Wavertreenook wrote:

    "3 euro cups in 6 seasons aswell as domestic domination. NO ONE, NO ONE will ever do that again"

    I'd keep an eye out for a certain Pep Guardiola.

  • Comment number 56.

    Comment 16: On a point of order, SAF has not won The Treble, which consits of the league and both DOMESTIC cups. He won A treble in 1999 if you include the CL however by that logice Liverpool won a quadruple in 2001 (quintuple if you count the Supercup, sextuple if you count the charity shield). Since you won't find many Liverpool fans playing semantics I don't think we should afford United fans the luxury.

    didnt you just do that? typical scouse logic i guess.

  • Comment number 57.


    you gave yourself away there

    "...but im looking forward to when taggart retires to see how the club go'll be an intresting time"

    So, by this statement you believe that Ferguson is the reason Man Utd are so successful. You can't wait for it to end as it has caused you so much pain for so long. You honestly believe that the good times for Liverpool will come flooding back once SAF retires - hence you believe he is the greatest as he is the only thing standing in your way.

    Thanks for finally outing yourself as a SAF's greatest admirer, champion!

  • Comment number 58.

    Wavertreenook and ferguson sitting in a tree....

  • Comment number 59.

    #51, thats harsh

  • Comment number 60.

    @49 - Ferguson didn't demolish the Liverpool empire. TWO other teams (Arsenal in 1991 and Leeds in 1992) had won the title before Utd won their first in 1993. What Ferguson did hugely successfully was fill the void that the all-dominant Liverpool had already vacated.

    @53 - I'm not sure why you think Paisley's team dominated a "weak" league? What made it weak? Back in the 1970's and early 80's, the top flight was far less predictable than it is today, where the same big, rich clubs finish in the top four.

    A comment about the "Treble". Ferguson's achievement is unique - I doubt any team will repeat it. However arguably Liverpool's treble in 1984 was of equal worth. The European Cup may have been "easier" to win, but the league title was played over 42 games, not 38; and the League Cup was a much harder competition to win back in 1984, as clubs took it seriously. I'd even go so far as to suggest that more clubs took the League Cup seriously in 1984 than did the FA Cup in 1999..... Worth thinking about....

  • Comment number 61.

    I will also add that when he rebuilds teams. Now Utd have more money available he doesn't go out on a shopping spree like the Madrids, Chelski's, Man City. He invests in youth, talent and unknowns. Yes he has had a few disasters but always uncovers gems too!

  • Comment number 62.

    # 51 - bringing football disasters into a forum when people died is uncalled for - typical "fan" who hasnt been to a game - OR lived within a city where family members, colleagues etc have been affected by it! Complaint to BBC submitted.

    #53 - a weaker league? Is this the same league that had 3 euopean champions within 7 years? How is that weak? get real. If you know your football you will know how close each season was between 76-84! it had euro champions LFC,Villa,Forest and the Ipswich side of bobby robson and the flair of spurs! better than the pl today!

    #55 - pep is going to be a legend for many years.

  • Comment number 63.

    52. That's the point I'm making - I don't consider Liverpool to have won The Quintuple, Quadruple or even realistically a Treble. Far more accurate to say we won 3 Cup competitions and 2 one off cup gamres in one season. Whereas United won the league and two cup competitions.
    56. Clearly logic is not your strong point - I was demostrating how we do not rely on semantics to illustrate a point. Please leave your blanket insults where they belong, in the school playground.

  • Comment number 64.

    #57 - your point is garbage. i started the end of my point with "not becasue im a lfc fan", my point was as a football fan, how utd will move on when taggart goes - simple as that

  • Comment number 65.

    Definitely the best manager of all time. To win the amount of titles, domestic and European trophies that he has is a massive achievement. He came in to knock Liverpool off their perch which was well and truly done a long time ago. (Liverpool fans please stop clutching at your 5 European cups now that Utd have won more league titles, it's so pathetic and the old European cup was a lot easier to win back in the 70's and 80's, Utd have won 2 Champions Leagues to your 1.)

    Furthermore, Ferguson has managed to surpress the Chelsea revolution of throwing money around, since Abramovich came in and bought all of their success Utd have STILL managed to win more league titles than Chelsea have as well as beating them in the Champions League final.

    Man City will inevitably win the league soon if not this season, it's exactly hard to do when you have sugar daddy owners buying success at any cost but no manager will have done it like Ferguson and I would still back him to still be winning the leage while City and Chelsea are heavily financed.

  • Comment number 66.

    really? so why mention it then? dosnt seem logical.

  • Comment number 67.

    Lest we forget, SAF is such a great manager he sullied the name of the oldest cup competetion in the world by withdrawing from it to play in what amounted to a tin-pot world trophy.

  • Comment number 68.

    Fergie is unquestionably the greatest British manager of all time.
    For all those Liverpool fans, if United hadn't come up against possibly the greatest club side ever (Barcelona) then United could have won 4 European Cups in 12 years.
    Anyone who thinks the European cup of the 70's and 80's is as competitive as it is now is in dreamland.

  • Comment number 69.

    Truth is we won't know how good he is until he leaves and his someone else tries to fill his role.
    His achievements at Aberdeen were impressive but it's worth noting Dundee Utd also broke up the Old Firm around the same time so it would suggest the Glasgow teams weren't as good.
    At Man Utd his first few years were disappointing, but once he had a good team he then went on to dominate building two brilliant teams. His record in Europe is perhaps an underachievement but I generally think they have been beaten by better teams when they haven't won it so there's no disgrace in that particularly losing to this Barca side which perhaps is one of the all time top teams.
    In terms of great managers of course he is right up there but I think Cloughie (with Peter Taylor) will always be top for me. To win the league with two small teams and win back to back European Cups is something special. It was certainly easier for smaller teams to win back then (with the CL seedings today guaranteeing the same names on the quarter finals) but it still stands out as something I'm not sure any of the other managers in the list could have done.

  • Comment number 70.

    @67 The FA made that suggestion.

  • Comment number 71.


    Looks like I touched a nerve - you love Ferguson so much you have to shout and yell, just to convince yourself it must be wrong. You can't wash ferguson off in the shower. if you love him, you love him, simple as that.

    It's sad that because of your Liverpool upbringing you haven't been able to make your feelings known in public before now. Good on you, you are a brave man.

  • Comment number 72.

    65 - Hardly easier to win a competion which includes the WINNERS of respective domestic leagues rather than the 2nd 3rd and 4th place teams like the champions league. By that logic, Uniteds haul of premier league titles mean nothing because they were played over fewer games, furthermore we won 12 of our titles with 2 points for a win rather than 3, United had won only 7 under those rules.
    The point I am making is that comparisons over such a long period and with such wide ranging rules changes are ultimately pointless.

  • Comment number 73.

    i think he is a class above his mates. 12 EPL isn't a joke

  • Comment number 74.

    63 Liverpool have won a very difficult treble twice, they have just never won the Treble, which is to say that they have never won the 3 biggest available trophies all in the same season. Only 6 european teams have done so.

    60 It's an interesting point you raise about the League Cup, although the reality is that back then, just as now, most teams didn't take it that seriously unless they found themselves within a game or two of the final. Liverpool in 1984 won it for the 4th time on the trot, and by then their run had definitely raised the profile of the tournament and teams were keen to stop them, but until 1981 they had never won it. Fair point about the FA Cup as well, although maybe not that 99 season, where United had to get past Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal to reach the final.

  • Comment number 75.


    You sound like an idiot, and for you to mention Heysel with a hint of humour sums up what southern bitter man fans are about, not in touch with the football club or the local area (northwest) for you to make that comment OR symbol. Surely fans of a club who suffered Munich would not find anything amusing such as Heysel.

    You probably supported another football club back in the 1950's and began glory hunting once man u's success began. Disgraceful idiot

  • Comment number 76.

    It's fairly impossible to definitively state who was/is the greatest manager of all time. Taking into account all of the changes in football down the years it's far too simplistic to cite trophy hauls alone as the mark of a great manager.

    I don't know enough about football pre 1990 courtesy of my age so would be hesitant to argue SAF is better than any manager before this time. Likewise the changes in football that have occured since these times would make it, i'd argue, an extremely tough comparison to draw.

    What i do believe, unequivocally, is that he is the greatest manager in modern day football (over the past 25years). I don't think any manager can rival his longevity, consistency, trophy haul or ability to move with the times in the same period. He's overseen wholesale changes to the playing staff on numerous occasions, he's rebuilt the club from top to bottom and created the Manchester United brand that's followed around the world. He's done all of this whilst sticking to his attacking principles.

    People often cite his lack of success, relative to his time in charge, in European football with Utd. I find it hard to argue against this, especially in the nineties where Utd dominated domestically yet still struggled on the continent. However since 1999 i doubt there has been a team more consistent in reaching the latter stages of the Champions League than Man Utd and had we come up against any team other than Barcelona (arguably the greatest side in history) in the two most recent finals then i'm confident that we'd have had another two trophies sitting in the cabinet too.

    Ultimately supporter bias will always come into play with such arguments. It's the same perennial debate as with deciding the best footballer of all time, Zidane, Cruyff, Maradonna, Pele, Messi, Ronaldo et al all have their merits but it's down to an individual's preference as their is no fiar comparison that you can make between players/managers/teams from different eras.

    For me, SAF is the greatest british modern manager. No-one can rival the impact he's had on the game in the past quarter of a century. Best of all time? hard to say

  • Comment number 77.

    67 - you know that it wasn't Ferguson's decision - you do

    So why say it? Because, like Wavertreenook you secretly admire him and probably even have a tattoo of him in some hidden away place. You just like to pull out the old cliches every now and again to keep your scouse mates off the scent.... have any of them commented about why you never shower with them? .... what if they see the tattoo...

  • Comment number 78.

    72 the Champions League also includes all the winners.

    67 Get yourself on youtube and check out what Flamengo did to Liverpool in that "tin-pot" world trophy in 1981.

  • Comment number 79.

    Just an aside to the main point; as a neutral when I read Man U and Liverpool fans shouting down the achievements of past and current teams (who have both achieved greatness) and who actually sound like they believe it rather it just makes me think that they know jack all about football.

  • Comment number 80.

    Alex Ferguson is the luckiest, not the greatest, football manager in Britain in recent decades. His luck started when he took over at Old Trafford at a time when a crop of exceptional youngsters, unprecedented since the time of the Busby Babes, were graduating from the youth academy. Secondly, he was very lucky that the money from TV rights (Sky) and sponsorship shot up astronomically a few years after he became manager. He did not always spend that money wisely, as he bought more than his fair share of dud players for very large transfer fes. Another flaw was that he had personality clashes with quite a few of his star players: Paul McGrath, Norman Whiteside, Paul Ince, David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Veron and others. His transfer dealing were not always wise. Look at the huge sum he paid for Berbatov. Think what Matt Busby would have done with all that huge amount of money for transfers.

  • Comment number 81.

    77. Just how old are you? Purile, snide little comments have no place in a reasoned debate such as this.
    I do indeed admire what he has achieved, however I do not admire many of the traits he has displayed along with his achievments, namely his arrogance and petulance.
    It would be a fool who states he is not a great manager, however again I make the point that comparisons are meaningless on anything other than a completely level playing field.
    You sir are what colours peoples perception of football fans. Please do us all a service and leave the debate to the adults.

  • Comment number 82.

    I think Sportsfan87 Save our 606 might have confused Del Bosque with Luis Aragonés, to whom that charge would apply.

  • Comment number 83.


  • Comment number 84.

    In 1967, Celtic won EVERY competition they entered......

  • Comment number 85.

    You brought Fergie's record into the ring..your comment of 2 European Cups in 25yrs included the years the ban on English clubs was in force.
    I am well aware of the 39 Juventus fans who died in that tragedy.
    I am also aware that Liverpool fans were at the game.
    If you agree to those facts..why have you complained?
    Are we to censor the truth?
    If you want to amend your comment and agree to "2 European Cups in 21yrs..that's fine.
    We'll just have to find solace in 12 titles in that time.
    For your info..been a Red for 43yrs and can walk it to Old T in 30mins.

  • Comment number 86.

    78. Obviously - However it is theoretically possible to win the 'Champions' league without beating the winners of any of the domestic leagues. Plus, pre champions 'league' the European Cup competition meant if you lost your game then that was it - not a second or third bite of the cherry so you could draw your way to a final.

  • Comment number 87.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 88.

    1878 onwards

    "For your info..been a Red for 43yrs and can walk it to Old T in 30mins".............once you have got off the train at trafford park after 4 hours.

  • Comment number 89.

    It's unfortunate that there are a lot (or maybe just one, Wavertreeboy) of bitter Liverpool fans who can't put rivalries aside to see the greatness of Taggart. You have to remember that when he went into United there was a massive culture shock for the players already there. Out went the drinking and gambling, and in came a regime of fitness training, diet and dedication to football. It took 4 years to win a trophy because the players weren't really used to that sort of expectation, and had to adjust massively. It would have been easy for Taggart to take the easy way out and leave after three years to go back to Scotland, but that's not the kind of person he is. It was those first three years that he restarted the youth conveyor belt that led to the class of 92.

    Like Graham Taylor said, it's very difficult to compare eras - Shankley and Paisley didn't have the same level of competition that Ferguson has faced in winning trophies, but Ferguson has had money behind him to allow success to happen. But don't let the money aspect fool you, there have pretty much always been clubs in the Premier League that have had better finances than United - even Blackburn were better placed to buy titles. How many other managers could have seen off so many different challenges to their team's superiority? Ferguson has seen off Norwich, Blackburn, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leeds, all contenders for the title at some point in his reign. Next challenge is to see off Manchester City - and whilst they may win the title this season, Ferguson will already have an idea of how to send them packing next season and onwards. Players like Cleverley, Jones, Young and Smalling will be fully bedded in by then, and United rarely have the problem of too many big egos in the same room...even Berbatov is seemingly happy to stay quiet.

    He's not always hit the mark in the transfer market, but then what manager has? And nobody can argue with the quality of signings like Cantona, Schmeichel, least William Prunier was only around for a couple of games!

    Shankly and Paisley were great at winning lots of trophies in a short space of time. Shankly rebuilt once in his tenure, Paisley didn't get to rebuild at all. Ferguson has rebuilt United four, possibly five times now in his time in charge. First side won trophies up to 96, second side got him the Treble, third side was not so good and only won him a few trophies in the early 2000s, fourth side got him another European Cup, and he's currently building side number 5.

    I wouldn't bet against them having to carry Ferguson out of Old Trafford in a box, and that'd probably be the way he'd want to go out.

  • Comment number 90.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 91.

    I love how Wavertree boy has to resort to some other team's result when trying to taunt United fans. Says a lot about what Liverpool have done in the last 25 years *chuckle*

  • Comment number 92.

    He's no Christian Gross though, is he?

  • Comment number 93.

    thats ok greg, when we won it in 2005 we had to sweep aside juve,chelsea,monaco and leverkusen, and in 2007 though sure we swept aside the great barca?


  • Comment number 94.

    Blog on Fergie, and the most prolific poster is a sad Scouser whinging like a little biatch.

    Greatest or not, it looks like he's achieved his first-avowed intent of perch-knocking!

  • Comment number 95.

    @72 - Hardly easier to win a competion which includes the WINNERS of respective domestic leagues rather than the 2nd 3rd and 4th place teams like the champions league

    That should read 'rather than the winners,2nd 3rd, and 4th place teams'. Reads slightly differently, doesn't it. A competition with the four best teams from italy, spain,england, holland and portugal is somehow weaker than one with only the top teams from each of those divisions?!
    The european cup may have been a more prestigious tournament but it certainly wasn't a stronger one.
    As for your point about it being possible to win the trophy without beating the champions of a domestic league - in theory yes, but it's never happened.

  • Comment number 96.

    Bob Paisley and co didnt have the competition that SAF has had. Sure, they were good managers, but in a time when football was only just growing into the sport it is today. Now it has reached feaver pitch and theres so much money and clamour to get the best stars and win win win. Making it so much competitive in this day.

    Saf therefore hasnt had the winning period of what Paisley had, but arguably and subjectively, Paisley might have one sod all in this modern era.

    SAF has rebuilt, rebuilt and rebuilt, and is still building, and still kept winning, against the odds.

  • Comment number 97.

    This blog illustrates one thing. Liverpool fans are bitter, twisted and sad individuals who after years of saying "we have more league titles than you" are now clutching to "we have more European cups than you". Losers.

  • Comment number 98.

    Over a much longer period of time, Ferguson still has a better win percentage record than either Shankly or Paisley, and Ferguson has had stronger competition to play against.

  • Comment number 99.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 100.


    Not to mention the fact that Liverpool fan Wavertreeboy has had to resort to a Manchester City result as a taunt against United. I'd point to a certain Spurs result, but I'm not that bitter ;)


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