Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United Managers post Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United are probably the most recognised football club in the world. They are certainly one of the most decorated clubs in Europe and England but the majority of their success came under just one manager. Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson is the most successful manager of all time but what has happened at United since he retired?

Here, I offer a brief on the man himself, as well as a short write-up on each of the managers after Ferguson finally finished his career as the greatest manager of Manchester United.

Manchester United Managers: The Ferguson Era and Its Legacy

Sir Alex Ferguson (1986-2013)

Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, named for the legendary Manchester United Manager

Sir Alex Ferguson, born on December 31, 1941, is a legendary Scottish football manager renowned for his illustrious career with Manchester United. Serving as the club’s manager from 1986 to 2013, Ferguson transformed Manchester United into one of the most successful football teams globally.

Ferguson’s managerial prowess is exemplified by his remarkable ability to build and rebuild winning squads. Under his guidance, Manchester United secured 13 English Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four league cups, and two UEFA Champions League trophies. His leadership was characterized by a relentless pursuit of excellence, discipline, and an indomitable will to win.

Beyond his tactical acumen, Ferguson’s knack for player development was instrumental in nurturing talents like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and David Beckham. His infamous “hairdryer treatment,” a stern and animated dressing-room lecture, became synonymous with his motivational style. Despite his fiery demeanour, Ferguson was deeply respected by his players, creating a strong sense of loyalty within the team.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy extends beyond the pitch, influencing a generation of football managers. Knighted in 1999 for his services to the sport, his impact on Manchester United and the footballing world at large is enduring, making him one of the greatest managers in the history of the sport.

Evaluating Manchester United Managers Post-Ferguson

David Moyes (2013-2014)

Manchester United's coach David Moyes

David Moyes’ tenure as the manager of Manchester United, beginning July 2013 to April 2014, is widely regarded as one of the most challenging periods in the club’s recent history. Taking over from the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes faced immense pressure to maintain the club’s success. Unfortunately, his term was marred by inconsistent performances and disappointing results.

Moyes struggled to adapt to the high expectations and scrutiny that came with managing a club of Manchester United’s stature. The team finished seventh in the Premier League, a significant deviation from their usual top-four standing. Moyes faced criticism for his tactical decisions, player management, and inability to maintain the team’s winning mentality.

Key factors contributing to Moyes’ difficulties included unsuccessful transfer dealings, the inability to inspire the players, and a lack of cohesion on the field. His dismissal in April 2014 marked the end of a short-lived and tumultuous era. Despite the challenges, Moyes’ subsequent career showcased resilience, as he went on to rebuild his managerial reputation with successful spells at clubs like West Ham United, proving that one setback did not define his overall career in football management.

Louis van Gaal (2014-2016)

head coach Manchester's Louis Van Gaal

Louis van Gaal’s reign as the manager of Manchester United, spanning from 2014 to 2016, was marked by a mix of highs and lows. Hired with the expectation of restoring the club to its former glory, the Dutch tactician implemented his trademark philosophy, emphasizing possession-based football and disciplined organization.

Van Gaal’s first season saw Manchester United secure a top-four finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League. However, the style of play often drew criticism for its perceived lack of attacking flair. The 2015-2016 season brought both joy and disappointment. The team clinched the FA Cup, ending a 12-year trophy drought, but a fifth-place finish in the Premier League meant they missed out on Champions League qualification.

Despite the cup success, Van Gaal faced scrutiny for the team’s perceived lack of progress and his rigid tactical approach. The possession-based football did not always yield positive results, and the lack of attacking prowess frustrated fans. Ultimately, he was relieved of his duties in May 2016, making way for Jose Mourinho.

Van Gaal’s time at Manchester United is characterized by a mixed legacy, marked by a trophy win but also a perceived failure to meet the lofty expectations associated with the club.

Jose Mourinho (2016-2018)

JOSE MOURINHO Manchester United Manager

Jose Mourinho’s incumbency as the manager of Manchester United, from May 2016 to December 2018, was characterized by a mix of successes and challenges. The Portuguese tactician inherited a team that had struggled in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era but immediately made an impact by winning the UEFA Europa League and the EFL Cup in his debut season.

Mourinho’s second season at the helm saw Manchester United finish second in the Premier League, their highest position since the departure of Ferguson. However, the campaign was not without its controversies, as public clashes with key players and a perceived defensive style of play drew criticism from both fans and pundits.

Despite a relatively strong start to the 2018-2019 season, a string of disappointing results and reported issues in the dressing room led to Mourinho’s dismissal in December 2018. The decision marked a turning point in the club’s recent history, as the board sought a different direction under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

While Mourinho’s time at Manchester United may be remembered for the silverware he secured, it is also notable for the strained relationships with players and a perceived lack of attacking flair. Nevertheless, his impact on the club’s trophy cabinet cannot be ignored, and his legacy at Old Trafford remains a subject of debate among football enthusiasts.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (2018-2021)

Ole Gunnar Solskjær manager of Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s occupancy as the manager of Manchester United was a rollercoaster ride marked by highs and lows, reflecting his deep-rooted connection with the club. Appointed as caretaker manager in December 2018, he quickly revitalized the team’s spirit, earning the permanent role in March 2019 after a string of impressive victories. His initial impact, most notably the stunning comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League, endeared him to the fans.

Solskjær’s tactical approach emphasized attacking football and youth development, aligning with Manchester United’s rich traditions. He secured a third-place finish in the Premier League during the 2019-2020 season, securing Champions League qualification. However, subsequent seasons proved challenging, with inconsistency in performances and results.

The 2020-2021 season saw Solskjær guide Manchester United to the final of the UEFA Europa League, but they fell short against Villarreal in a dramatic penalty shootout. The team displayed glimpses of brilliance, with notable wins against strong opponents, yet faced criticism for struggles against perceived weaker sides.

Despite facing scrutiny, Solskjær maintained the support of the club’s hierarchy, who recognized his commitment to the long-term vision. His man-management skills and dedication to promoting academy talents resonated with the ethos of Manchester United.

Erik ten Hag (2022-present)

Erik ten Hag Manchester United head coach

Erik ten Hag joined Manchester United from Dutch side Ajax in April of 2022. He had spent the previous 5 years at Ajax where he had a reasonably successful term in office winning several trophies including the Eredivisie (league) 3 times, the KNVB Cup twice and the Johan Cruff Shield in 2019.

It’s too early to give a full review of ten Hag’s career at Old Trafford, but..I will say: I think he needs to be given the same length of time Ferguson was given to mold his current or future squad of players before judging him on his results.

As it stands, he has won 1 trophy while in charge at Manchester, The EFL cup in the 22-23 season. Ten Hag has a win rate of around 60%, which, is roughly the same as Sir Alex Ferguson all time win rate is for Manchester United. But, will it bring the same kind of success as Sir Alex? We shall see…