Michael Laudrup Is Thriving as Swansea's Manager and Is Heading for the Top
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When Brendan Rodgers left Swansea to take over at Liverpool, I immediately made Swansea my red-hot favourite to be relegated back down to the Championship.
Second-season syndrome hits many newly promoted clubs. In a club's first year in the league, it is often able to take a lot of teams by surprise and survive comfortably, but in the second season, it can struggle as other teams work out how to play it.
Swansea more than survived in their first season. They acquitted themselves brilliantly, and their stunning passing game was the envy of many so-called superior teams across the country.
Inevitably, when a team does well, the biggest clubs start casting admiring glances in its direction. Players like Scott Sinclair, Ashley Williams, Joe Allen and Danny Graham looked vulnerable after fantastic seasons the previous year.
However, it was the manager who was most sought after. Eventually Swansea accepted defeat, and Rodgers was allowed to take over the Liverpool job after the sacking of Kenny Dalglish.
Scott Sinclair was allowed to go to Manchester City, and Joe Allen followed his manager to Liverpool. It seemed like things were going from bad to worse for Swansea, and it seemed like they were in for a long hard season.
However, the one bright spark for Swansea fans during the summer was the appointment of their new manager.
I had followed Michael Laudrup's managerial career since his early days in coaching. What had really impressed me about him was the willingness he had shown to learn his managerial craft. A man of his talents as a player could have walked into some of the top jobs in Europe on his reputation alone, but he didn't choose that path.
Will Michael Laudrup still be manager of Swansea this time next year?
He was assistant manager of the Danish national team for a while before taking the managerial job at Brondby in 2002. He was a great success during his four years in charge of the club. He won the league title once and finished runner-up in the other three seasons.
He also won the Danish Cup on two occasions and the Danish Super Cup twice. He left Brondby in the summer of 2006.
After a year long break from management, he took his next job at Getafe in Spain. This was when the wider football world really started taking notice of Laudrup as a manager.
Although he was at the club for little over a year, Getafe enjoyed one of their most successful periods in their history. He led them to the final of the Copa Del Rey and the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup.
What followed were two shorter spells at Spartak Moscow where he was sacked for the very first time before a spell at Mallorca, who he managed to save from relegation.
He then took over at Swansea in June 2012. After losing two of his best players in Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen, it seemed clear that Laudrup was going to have a big challenge on his hands.
However, just before the transfer window closed, he managed to sign a talented midfielder from Spain called Michu for the tiny sum of just £2 million.
What a piece of business it has proved to be. Michu has taken the league by storm, and Swansea are riding high, with the highlight of their season so far being their 2-0 victory January 9 at Chelsea in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal, which leaves them with one foot already at Wembley.
They have much to thank Laudrup for, as he enabled their success this season. A couple of slight changes have been made to the team that was so brilliant last season.
Although Swansea still play a possession-based game, they have adopted a more direct style this season, looking to get the ball to Michu more quickly than they did last season.
Laudrup has also seen the potential that Wayne Routledge has always had, and he has utilised it effectively, with the winger having the best season of his career so far.
Swansea have also been more compact in defence and shown all the signs that they are going to establish themselves for the long haul in the Premier League.
The problem Swansea might have is once again holding onto their outstanding manager. Chelsea will be one of many clubs looking for a new manager in the summer.
Swansea fans will be hoping that Laudrup manages to resist the lure of the big clubs that he has managed to do so far in his career. Sooner or later, though, one of the greatest teams in the world will come calling for this outstanding manager, and he won't be able to turn them down.
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