Ranking the Best Managers Who Played for Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2017

Ranking the Best Managers Who Played for Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United

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    Mark Hughes, now in charge of Stoke City, greets Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline in his Queens Park Rangers days.
    Mark Hughes, now in charge of Stoke City, greets Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline in his Queens Park Rangers days.ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

    Sir Alex Ferguson was incredibly good at a lot of things. There may be those who argue against the former Manchester United manager being considered the best ever to do the job, but there would be plenty ready to rebuff their claims.

    Whether or not he was the greatest football manager of all time, though, one thing is certain: He has never been a particularly good teacher of other managers.

    Where those who played for or coached under former United manager Louis van Gaal include Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and a list of successful Dutch managers as long as your arm, Sir Alex's former players and coaches have not enjoyed the same kind of success.

    But with United lining up against a Fergie old boy in Mark Hughes and his Stoke City side at the weekend, it seemed a timely moment to consider which of the slim pickings are the best of the bunch.

    We have ranked managers on their outright successes—few as there have been—as measured against their obvious failures. Jaap Stam, in his first season at Reading, was not considered for selection given how little time he has had on the touchline, but his impressive start is worth an honourable mention here.

    Another semi-honourable mention goes to the boss' son, Darren Ferguson, who enjoyed some success at Peterborough United. Failure at Preston North End and his inability to keep Doncaster Rovers in League One having taking over in October 2015 saw him narrowly miss out.

6: Bryan Robson

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    Bryan Robson during his tenure as Middlesbrough manager.
    Bryan Robson during his tenure as Middlesbrough manager.Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Darren Ferguson may be a little aggrieved when he sees who he missed out to, but Bryan Robson just pipped him to the No. 6 spot by virtue of a couple of big successes.

    He took over at Middlesbrough as player-manager in 1994 and got his side into the Premier League as champions of the second tier at the first time of asking.

    He then kept them up for a season and took them to both domestic cup finals in the 1996/97 season, though they were infamously relegated in the same campaign—in large part because of a three-point deduction for not fielding a team when an illness spread throughout the camp.

    He got them back to the Premier League and kept them up—no mean feat—getting to another League Cup final.

    His other notable achievement was to become the first manager in charge of a Premier League team who were bottom on Christmas Day to avoid the drop, keeping West Bromwich Albion in the division in the 2004/05 season.

    Since then, there has been little to shout about, and his career in management soon petered out.

5: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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    The Baby-Faced Tactician: Solskjaer on the Molde touchline.
    The Baby-Faced Tactician: Solskjaer on the Molde touchline.Peter Dejong/Associated Press

    His spell in charge of Cardiff City was a disaster. In retrospect, it was a job he should probably have avoided, given what was going on behind the scenes in terms of the club's ownership, but he also acquitted himself poorly, making plenty of his own mistakes.

    However, his young managerial career has been pretty impressive away from England. He left his post in United's academy to take the reins at his former club Molde and guide them to two league titles and a domestic cup in three seasons, playing an entertaining brand of football.

    That—combined, no doubt, with his name recognition—earned him the Cardiff job, and when that did not work, Molde were happy to have him back. Now the Norwegian Football Federation have been given permission to talk to him about taking over the national team, per Rbnett (h/t ESPN FC).

    That he was in consideration for such a prominent role in his home country speaks well of his potential. In spite of the Cardiff failure, better things could still lie ahead for Solskjaer.

4: Steve Bruce

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    Steve Bruce is back in management at Aston Villa.
    Steve Bruce is back in management at Aston Villa.Tim Ireland/Associated Press

    Well ahead of the Baby-Faced Assassin but narrowly missing out on the spot above him is Steve Bruce.

    Bruce enjoyed a triumph, trophy-packed playing career, but his managerial career has been that of a decent journeyman. Two promotions to the Premier League each with Birmingham City and Hull City were more than decent achievements.

    He took Hull to an FA Cup final, too, and made a decent attempt at winning it, taking Arsenal to extra time before eventually losing 3-2.

    He did a decent job at Wigan Athletic and Sunderland in the Premier League but has never impressed in the top flight. Perhaps he will be able to guide Aston Villa back there and right that wrong, but there is a long way to go before that happens.

3: Mark Hughes

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    Hughes on Stoke's touchline.
    Hughes on Stoke's touchline.Tim Ireland/Associated Press

    That Hughes is as high as third on this list is an indicator of the general lack of success of this group. He is not a bad manager and, other than Queens Park Rangers, has never overseen a disaster, but nor has he overseen many triumphs.

    His Wales side was promising, and he did well enough at Blackburn Rovers to earn the Manchester City job just before the takeover made that a different scale of operation. He was sacked and replaced with Roberto Mancini.

    Spells at Fulham and QPR followed before he arrived at Stoke, where he has been a steady hand on the rudder, as the club has moved away from its reputation as a hard-hitting long-ball side and towards a more elegant style.

2: Gordon Strachan

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    Gordon Strachan bellows instructions as Scotland manager.
    Gordon Strachan bellows instructions as Scotland manager.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Gordon Strachan and Sir Alex endured a pretty tumultuous relationship, and it was clear during Strachan's appearance on Graham Hunter's The Big Interview podcast that the former is not a big fan of the latter. 

    However, he worked under Ferguson at both Aberdeen and United, so he counts on this list. 

    And he has had a more-than-decent managerial career.

    Weighing Hughes' Premier League stability up against Strachan's success in Scotland was a tricky affair, but ultimately, the silverware won out. 

    After decent spells at Coventry City and Southampton, Strachan won three consecutive Scottish league titles in charge of Celtic, and three domestic cup competitions to boot. As Saints manager, he got to an FA Cup final, though they lost to Arsenal.

    He has done enough as a manager to earn himself the Scotland job. That is not going particularly well at the moment, but as ex-Fergie players' managerial careers go, his is among the best.

1: Laurent Blanc

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Laurent Blanc in their PSG days.
    Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Laurent Blanc in their PSG days.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

    While Laurent Blanc only spent a brief period under Sir Alex, and while much of his managerial success came at Paris Saint-Germain—a club whose resources outstripped the domestic competition—he is nonetheless a pretty automatic pick here.

    Firstly, he won the French league with Bordeaux before his time in Paris—a fine achievement. Secondly, he qualified comfortably for the 2012 European Championship in charge of France, making it to the quarter-finals before losing to eventual champions Spain.

    And thirdly, the PSG job saw him win three league titles in a row with a domestic double and three domestic trebles in that period. Even though the playing field was hardly level, it still required some managerial nous to pull off.

    He is No. 1 for now, but any of Fergie's ex-players working on becoming a manager in the future should know this is a position that is attainable if any of them become a real success.


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