Ranking the Most Successful Manchester United Players Who Went into Management

Terry CarrollContributor IIIMarch 21, 2013

Ranking the Most Successful Manchester United Players Who Went into Management

0 of 11

    How many former Manchester United players have managed teams in the Football League, Premier League or their equivalent? Before you read on, see how many you can name.

    So far we have counted 38 without going back to Wilf McGuinness, the last former United player to manage the club itself.

    Twenty-four played for Sir Alex Ferguson himself. Not surprisingly, all but two of our top 10 come from those former players. The No. 1 choice may surprise you.

    What can be said is that relatively few have made a success of football management at the highest level. No doubt Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs can change that record one day?

    But we'll start with the ones who didn't make it into our elite list. 

The Ones Who Didn't Make It

1 of 11

    Did Brian Kidd make the right decision, leaving the post of assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson and going into management himself?

    Not many get the chance to be assistant at Old Trafford, let alone manager. Mike Phelan is the former and Wilf McGuinness was the latter, with the misfortune of having to succeed Sir Matt Busby.

    How would Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fare if they followed in Fergie's footsteps? We may never know.

    Some former players at Old Trafford who left to move into club management may have harboured similar ambitions. At the moment, only one of the above seems to have any chance at all.

    Those who have tried it have had mixed fortunes and few have succeeded at the highest level (Premier League or its equivalent).

    We have reduced the list of 37 to just 10. Here are the near-misses with the clubs they managed:

    Viv Anderson, Barnsley

    Michael Appleton, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn

    Henning Berg, Lynn Oslo, Lillestrom, Blackburn

    Martin Buchan, Burnley

    Noel Cantwell, Coventry, Peterborough, New England Tea Men

    Chris Casper, Bury

    Sir Bobby Charlton, Preston

    Simon Davies, Chester

    Peter Davenport, Macclesfield

    Darren Ferguson, Peterborough, Preston

    Johnny Giles, Ireland, WBA, Shamrock Rovers, Vancouver Whitecaps

    David Herd, Lincoln City

    Stewart Houston, Arsenal, QPR

    Paul Ince, Macclesfield, MK Dons, Blackburn, Notts County, Blackpool

    Joe Jordan, Bristol City, Hearts, Stoke

    Andrei Kanchelskis, FC Torpedo Zil, FC Ufa

    Brian Kidd, Preston, Blackburn

    Henrik Larsson, Landskrona BoIS

    Pat McGibbon, Lurgan Celtic, Newry City

    Sammy McIlroy, Macclesfield, Northern Ireland, Stockport, Morecambe

    Gordon McQueen, Airdrie

    Mark Robins, Rotherham, Barnsley, Coventry, Huddersfield

    Maurice Setters, Doncaster, Sheffield Wednesday

    Frank Stapleton, Bradford City, New England Revolution

    Nobby Stiles, Preston, Vancouver Whitecaps, WBA

    Chris Turner, Leyton Orient, Hartlepool, Sheffield Wednesday, Stockport

    Ray Wilkins, QPR, Fulham

    So, with so few to choose from, who has made it at the highest level?

10. Lou Macari

2 of 11

    Lou Macari is now a pundit and commentator for MUTV, presumably having retired from football management.

    When he left Manchester United in 1984 he joined Swindon Town as player-manager in the old Fourth Division, taking them to two consecutive promotions. 

    His greatest achievements were with Stoke City who he took to the Second Division Championship in 1993 before missing out in the playoffs to the Premier League in 1997.

    The other teams he managed were: West Ham, Birmingham, Celtic and Huddersfield Town.

9. Roy Keane

3 of 11

    Roy Keane may have left Manchester United under a cloud, but he was celebrated at Celtic, first when they won the "Old Firm" derby, then the League and Cup Double. 

    These were his last triumphs before he retired on medical advice. Maybe he could have remained to succeed Gordon Strachan as manager of Celtic?

    Instead, he launched his new career at Sunderland, taking over with them second bottom of the championship. He took them to the Premier League in his first season and won Manager of the Year for the division.

    He resigned less than two years later, with the club struggling.

    In April 2009 he joined Ipswich Town as manager but was unable to take them to promotion. Less than two years later he was sacked, with the club having fallen as low as 21st in the championship.

    He now works as a TV pundit, making use of his outspoken manner.

8. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

4 of 11

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was preparing for management long before he left Old Trafford. 

    Sir Alex appointed him to manage the reserves and always expected him to go into football management, maybe even succeeding him in due course.

    While Solskjaer has only had one management appointment so far, he has led Molde to the Norwegian Championship and the Champions League twice in two years.

    In the meantime he was also approached by Aston Villa to fill their managerial vacancy. While Molde gave permission for the talks, he decided to stay in Norway.

    He is currently the leading contender to succeed Sir Alex, among former United players.

7. Laurent Blanc

5 of 11

    Not so long ago it was suggested that Laurent Blanc could be head and shoulders above other candidates to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Looking at all the factors concerned, it would seem that the name of any prospective successor would need more than just the Scottish knight's imprimatur.

    The anointed one would almost certainly need management experience at Premier League or an equivalent level. Maybe international management in a major tournament would qualify?

    In addition, he must surely have experience in the Champions League, at the very least as a player, but ideally as a manager.

    It would seem that Blanc qualifies on all counts. 

    He was a successful player who finished his career at Marseille, Barcelona, Inter and United.

    As a manager at Bordeaux he was French Manager of the Year and took them into the Champions League twice, including winning the French title.

    And of course, he was France's manager after the 2010 World Cup debacle (since which he has also been tinged with controversy).

6. Bryan Robson

6 of 11

    For a long time it was thought that Bryan Robson might succeed Sir Alex at Old Trafford. 

    He went straight into football management when he left United to join Middlesbrough as player-manager. He took them into the Premier League as First Division champions in his first season.

    After he hung up his boots, he also combined the Middlesbrough job with being assistant England manager to Terry Venables and was considered as a successor when the latter stepped down.

    Robson took his club side to three Wembley finals during one of their most successful eras ever.

    A short spell as manager of struggling Bradford City followed before he finished his career with West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United and the Thai national team.

    He has been an ambassador for United since 2008. He remains one of the most popular players of all time among the Old Trafford fans.

5. Steve Coppell

7 of 11

    For a long time, Steve Coppell looked like he would become one of the most successful managers of his generation. His successes particularly at Crystal Palace and Reading seemed only a precursor to one of the top jobs in football.

    Tragically, an injury forced his early retirement from the game where he was a highly rated United and England player.

    At 28, he became one of the youngest managers ever in the history of the Football League when he joined Crystal Palace.

    He is an intelligent man and one of the few top-level players who has a degree. He used his ability to sign a string of talented players for Crystal Palace. 

    Only five years later, he took them into the Premier League where they stayed for another four seasons. During that time, Palace gave Sir Alex Ferguson a fright when they almost beat United in the FA Cup Final, at one time leading 3-1 before losing in a replay.

    He resigned from Palace when they were relegated from the Premier League in 1993. He was linked with the England job and pipped by former playing colleague Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough.

    Instead, he was eventually lured back to Palace as director of football before accepting the manager's job at Manchester City in 1996.

    Somewhat bizarrely, he succumbed to the pressure of the job after only six games in charge.

    After a spell as chief scout, he was tempted back into management at Palace, from which he moved to Brentford and then Brighton. Eventually he joined Reading in 2003.

    His spell at the Madejski Stadium was one of his most successful. In 2005-2006 they ran away with the championship; and in his first season in the Premier League he was Manager of the Year.

    Sadly, Reading were relegated in 2008-2009 and eventually Coppell resigned. His last job in management was with Bristol City, but at 57 it is not too late for him to return.

4. Mark Hughes

8 of 11

    If Mark Hughes has aspirations to succeed Sir Alex, then his move to Blackburn was a smart one. This had followed a spell in charge of Wales which was one of their more successful in recent times.

    Blackburn were in danger of relegation from the Premier League when he took over and guided them to sixth place, the UEFA Cup and a FA Cup semi-final. In his final season they finished seventh.

    When Manchester City sacked Sven Goran Eriksson, it seemed as if they and Chelsea were both competing for Hughes' services. That he went to City might not have counted against him if he had succeeded in the way his successor Roberto Mancini did.

    Fuelled by the new money coming in from Sheikh Mansour, Hughes went on a spending spree, several players of which still remain on City's books. 

    However, he could not deliver success. With the team in decline, he was replaced by Mancini.

    Seven months later, Mohammed Al-Fayed picked up his contract for Fulham whom he led into eighth place and the Europa League. Something didn't quite seem to gel between the two, however, and the Welshman left after less than a year.

    Again, it took him only seven months to secure a move to QPR. Again, this was not successful. While he managed to keep them in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth, the following season they went 12 games without a victory. He was sacked in November 2012.

    It will be interesting to see where Mark Hughes turns up next because he clearly has some ability. However, despite relative success in a couple of seasons since his time at Blackburn, he has not shown himself capable of managing at the highest level of all.

3. Steve Bruce

9 of 11

    Although Steve Bruce hasn't yet had the chance to manage one of the top six or seven clubs in the Premier League, he has shown himself more than capable at the lower levels.

    He has never had the fortunes to spend that Hughes has, for example. The most funds he had available were probably at Sunderland.

    Bruce is currently at Hull City. If he manages to take them into the Premier League, that may well be his finest achievement to date.

    Also once fancied as a possible successor to Sir Alex, he nevertheless does not tick all the boxes and probably won't ever get a top club.

    On his CV he has also managed Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan, Crystal Palace and Birmingham. And he's not done too badly which is why he is ranked No.3.

2 Gordon Strachan

10 of 11

    This is not a popularity contest. 

    The last two managers in our selection are clearly the most successful. Both have managed at the very highest level, including in European competition.

    Neither would be a popular choice at Old Trafford.

    Gordon Strachan has managed Coventry, Southampton, Celtic, Middlesbrough and Scotland. He has not been wildly successful at any of them except Celtic, where he won six major trophies and managed in the Champions League for four consecutive seasons, including giving United a fright!

1. George Graham

11 of 11

    Fellow Scot George Graham is undeniably the most successful former Manchester United player ever to manage a football club.

    He spent just over two seasons at United in the early 70s and went on to manage Millwall, Arsenal, Leeds United and Spurs for a total of 862 matches, with several seasons in Europe.

    He was sacked by Spurs in 2001 after a very public fall-out and has not worked in management since. We can only guess at the reasons why...


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.