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Top 5 Manchester United managers of all time

Manchester United have had many great managers over the decades
Manchester United have had many great managers over the decades
Modified 21 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Manchester United are counted as one of the most successful clubs in the world for a reason. Two reasons, actually. The first being their ability to nurture and attract some of the world’s biggest talents – the Busby Babes and the Class of ’92 being just two groups of many who have graced the Theater of Dreams over the decades.

The second, of course, is their ability to bring in the right individual, in the form of a manager, to bring out the best in each and every player.

Granted, Manchester United have gone through a bit of turmoil in the managerial department since the departure of a certain Scotsman back in 2013, but things seem to be on the up under current boss and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

However, hiring the best managers in the world isn’t the only reason the club thrived during its glory days. Getting behind their boss, with Manchester United renowned for backing their managers up to the hilt, and giving him enough time to deliver – provided he takes the club in the right direction – have also contributed to the club’s success.

In a world where clubs play roulette with their managers, time is a luxury Manchester United have been quite gracious with. It’s no wonder, then, that they are currently the most successful English club in the Premier League, with their influence extending to every corner of the globe.

So who are the managers who have played a major part in bringing Manchester United to its current point? You’re about to find out as we get to ranking Manchester United’s top 5 managers of all time.

#5 Ernest Mangnall

A 1910 game between Tottenham and Mancheser United (then managed by Mangnall}
A 1910 game between Tottenham and Mancheser United (then managed by Mangnall}

The Englsihman’s name might not ring a bell among the Old Trafford faithful, mostly due to him being in charge of the club from 1903 to 1912 – which seems like many lifetimes ago. Nevertheless, Mangnall is an important and slightly controversial figure in Manchester United’s history, to whom the club owe a great deal.


Mangnall, who was officially the club’s secretary (the word ‘manager’ wasn't used by the Old Trafford outfit until the appointment of Jack Robson in 1914), is recognized as Manchester United’s third most successful manager.

He remains one of just three Manchester United managers to have won the league, then known as the First Division as well as the first United manager to lift the FA Cup.

Mangnall’s foresight of shifting Manchester United to their now legendary home of Old Trafford also played a major part in immortalizing his legacy at the club. The Englishman made a controversial move to United’s arch rivals Manchester City in 1912 after 471 games at Old Trafford, where he lifted 2 First Division titles, 1 FA Cup and 2 Charity Shields. His last game in charge of United was coincidentally against City, who won the match 1-0.

The media focussed mostly on Mangnall, who was already confirmed as City’s new boss, and his delight at his future employer’s victory. Despite his change of colors, Mangnall’s contributions to the red half of Manchester will be permanently etched in the club’s history books.

#4 Tommy Docherty

Ducherty, Charlton And Busby
Ducherty, Charlton And Busby

The Doc may not have won as many trophies as his illustrious peers on this list or had the best of ends to his United spell, but the major changes he oversaw at Manchester United has made him an important part of their history.

The Scotsman was personally handed the job by legendary United manager Matt Busby, and inherited a club firmly in decline – not helped by an aging squad that rested on the glories of the past.

Docherty managed to keep the squad in the First Division for two whole seasons before overseeing their relegation in 1974. It was then that a much-needed squad rebuild was heralded in by Docherty. The rebuild caused United to become Second Division champions and return to the top tier of English football just a year later.

Docherty then went on to lead United to an FA Cup triumph in 1977, beating league champions and firm favorites Liverpool 2-1 in the final. However, Docherty’s extramarital affair with the wife of United’s physiotherapist Laurie Brown was unearthed in the same year, causing him to be unceremoniously sacked in July.

The manner of Docherty’s United exit is a blot on his Old Trafford legacy, but the numerous things he brought to the team, including a style of football that resembled the all-conquering side of the decade prior, can never be forgotten.

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Published 21 Mar 2021, 07:11 IST
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