The Greatest Football Manager Rivalries in the Premier League
Any fan of football will be aware that football is filled with passions and rivalries off the pitch as well as on-pitch. You can even place football bets on all sorts of eventualities – fouls, red cards, all sorts. However, managers can be every bit as animalistic in defence of their teams as the players, and some managerial rivalries are legendary.
Here are some of the most exciting manager rivalries ever.
SIR ALEX FERGUSON V KENNY DALGLISH
Probably the biggest and best of all managerial rivalries is the one between Manchester United’s then manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish – who was manager of Blackburn Rovers.
In the first two years of the Premier League, Manchester United was led to victory by Sir Alex Ferguson, beating off a challenge from Blackburn Rovers in the 1993-94 season. However, the next season, with Dalglish at the helm, was won by Rovers – lifting the trophy of a dramatic last day of the season. Although Rovers lost to Liverpool, United, who would have won if they could beat West Ham, only managed a draw and the title went to Rovers.
The rivalry heated up again a few seasons later in 2011-12, this time when Dalglish was manager of Liverpool and his star player, Luis Suarez, was given an eight-game ban for the racial abuse of United’s defender, Patrice Evra.
ARSENE WENGER VS SIR ALEX FERGUSON
These two managers have been rival managers for numerous years in the Premier League, both managing top teams throughout the years. In fact, between 1996 and 2004, the Premier League title was won either by Ferguson’s Man U or Wenger’s Arsenal squad. Little surprise then that during this time, things got pretty heated between the two men.
There were several spats between the two – which was reflected by the players on the pitch. There was even one occasion when, post-match, Alex Ferguson was hit by a slice of pizza lobbed by Cesc Fabregas.
Wenger himself said that it could sometimes be very aggressive, particularly when the game had come to an end. Wenger described them both as lions, meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson said that the pair could be ‘toxic’.
JOSE MOURINHO VS ARSENE WENGER
If there was one thing Mourinho was good at, it was winding up his fellow managers – and he really managed to get under the skin of Arsene Wenger. There was certainly always plenty of tension when these two met on the touchline – and threw barbs at each other in press conferences.
The feud began in earnest in 2005 when Wenger criticises Mourinho’s negative tactics. In response, Mourinho hit back at Wenger, calling him a voyeur. Wenger took the insult to heart, saying the Portuguese manager was ‘out of order’. He also branded him as disconnected from reality and disrespectful.
After a little break, Mourinho returned to the Premier League with Chelsea in 2013 and branded Wenger a ‘specialist in failure’. Then, the following year in 2014, Wenger shoved Mourinho on the touchline at Stamford Bridge and the two had to be pulled apart.
KEVIN KEEGAN VS SIR ALEX FERGUSON
During the 1995-96 Premier League, Newcastle was a force to be reckoned with – and at one point, Newcastle was 12 points clear at the top, with Manchester United, led by Ferguson, looking to chase them down.
Ferguson started playing mind games at this point, suggesting to the media that two of Newcastle’s final three opponents – Leeds and Nottingham, wouldn’t be trying hard. However, after a very tough 1-0 win over Leeds, Keegan made no secret of his thoughts in his post-match interview saying that Ferguson’s comments had made him go down in his estimation – and topped it off by saying “I’d love it if we beat them, love it.” However, unfortunately for Keegan, it was United that became the champions that season, beating Keegan’s side by four points.
JOSE MOURINHO VS RAFAEL BENITEZ
This rivalry started in the mid-2000s when Mourinho’s Chelsea squad was up against Liverpool, led by Rafael Benitez in the latter stages of the Champions League. It was during this game that Liverpool defeated Chelsea in the semifinal, partly due to a ‘ghost goal’ as Mourinho dubbed it 0 when the referee gave a goal that was highly dubious.
Just as Wenger had done previously, Benitez criticised the way that Mourinho had his team playing – and because of this Mourinho refused to shake Benitez’ hand after a match in 2006. The following year, in 2007, Benitez mocked Mourinho’s ‘ the Special One’ title, by saying that Liverpool has lots of ‘Special Ones’ – their fans.
These are just a few – there have been plenty of rivalries throughout the time – Arsene Wenger vs Sam Allardyce, Alex Ferguson vs Rafa Benitez, Mark Hughes vs Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew vs Manuel Pellegrini, Antonio Conte vs Jose Mourinho and more. In fact, it’s fair to say that there have been times when the managers have been even more entertaining than the players. Here’s to many more years of battling bosses!