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Ranking the 5 greatest managerial rivalries in Premier League history

Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho are arguably the greatest managers in Premier League history.
Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho are arguably the greatest managers in Premier League history.
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Arnav Kholkar

The Premier League has been graced by many world-class managers. Some tasted great success, while others faded away after failing to live up to the pressure of managing a Premier League team.

The legacies of clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and in recent years, Manchester City, were built by great managers. Some stayed at their clubs for decades, like Sir Alex Ferguson at United and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Others, like Jose Mourinho, Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte, achieved success in much shorter stints at various Premier League clubs.

Here is an interesting tweet from 2018 to provide a perspective on Wenger's and Ferguson's legendary tenures:

This will be the first time since 1986 that Manchester United and Arsenal have faced each other without Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger ⏳ https://t.co/ZoVjK8VHIX

With the stakes set higher and higher each year, the tension between clubs competing for the Premier League title has also grown. Managers often get caught up in the middle of it all. They are answerable to the press, fans, club hierarchy and, of course, their players. That has, at times, led to feuds between managers, making for unsavoury moments.

From scuffles on the touchline to taking digs at one another during press conferences, bringing up past incidents and using mind games, Premier League managers have done it all.

On that note, here's a look at the five greatest managerial rivalries in Premier League history.


#5 Jose Mourinho (Manchester United) vs Antonio Conte (Chelsea)

Jose Mourinho (left) and Antonio Conte share a rare laugh.
Jose Mourinho (left) and Antonio Conte share a rare laugh.

Antonio Conte arrived at Chelsea in 2016, ready to take on his first challenge in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho was then newly appointed as the Manchester United manager. Fans and pundits alike were curious to see how their rivalry would develop as the two men competed for silverware.

Mourinho had managed in the league before and was no stranger to the intensity of the Premier League - on the pitch, sidelines or behind the scenes. Conte, meanwhile, like Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola and Rafael Benitez, was at the receiving end of Mourinho's sly remarks. However, he was not one to back down.

🗣 "I consider him a little man." Throwback to when Antonio Conte called Jose Mourinho 'fake' in 2018Conte vs Jose returns next season 👀 🔥 https://t.co/7kxzmo6gxj

During the pair's stints in the Premier League between 2016 and 2018, several spats took place between them.

After Conte's Chelsea beat Mourinho's United 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in 2016, the latter slammed his counterpart's celebrations at full time, labelling them excessive. A few months later, Conte questioned why Victor Moses was sent on several loans by Chelsea, a player whom Mourinho had managed at the time. The Italian questioned Mourinho's ability to spot talent, as he left Moses out of his team.

Later in the season, in the early months of 2017, as Chelsea looked like title favourites, Mourinho praised The Blues with a backhand compliment, saying:

"Chelsea are a very good defensive team. They defend very well and with lots of players, and, I think, in this situation, a very defensive team wins the title."

The two managers had some very colourful words for each other over the two years. The Italian mentioned to the press that Chelsea wanted consistency, and wanted to avoid a season like Mourinho's last at the club.

When asked what he thought about Conte's remarks, Mourinho took a trademark dig at the Italian, commenting on his hair transplant, saying:

"I don't know. I could answer in many different ways, but I'm not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte."

When asked for a response, Conte tried explaining in Italian, and ended up using a phrase that, in English, roughly translates to 'senile dementia'.

JOSE v CONTE 🥊🔴 "I'm not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte."🔵 "Sometimes I think there is, I don't know the name, but demenza senile... when you forget what you do in the past."Timeline here: skysports.tv/fjyg8i

It was a rivalry that was entertaining, both on and off the pitch. However, Conte had the last laugh as his Chelsea team walked away with the Premier League title, with Mourinho's United coming sixth.


#4 Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) vs Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)

Arsene Wenger (left) and Jose Mourinho created quite a spectacle as they were involved in a sensational touchline push-and-shove in 2014.
Arsene Wenger (left) and Jose Mourinho created quite a spectacle as they were involved in a sensational touchline push-and-shove in 2014.

Arsene Wenger signed as Arsenal's manager in 1996, winning three league titles in his 22-year tenure. Under the Frenchman, The Gunners impressively went an entire season unbeaten, during the historic 2003-04 'Invincibles' campaign. However, that came before Jose Mourinho arrived in the Premier League as Chelsea's manager later that summer.

The Blues went on to create history. The Portuguese manager, in his first season in charge, won the Premier League with 95 points and a record-low of 15 goals conceded. Wenger's Arsenal finished a distant second, a whopping 12 points behind The Blues.

Mourinho made it successive Premier League titles in his next season in English football as Chelsea announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

What a season 2004/05 was for Jose Mourinho & Chelsea. https://t.co/iFCTNTigU2

However, what started as an exciting rivalry on the pitch soon moved away from football, and turned into a war of words. In one instance, it blew over as the two managers were involved in an infamous touchline scuffle during a Premier League game in 2014.

Here's a montage by Eurospork UK that encapsulates the pair's intense rivalry in a nutshell.

The insults, the legal threats... the push. We look back at the most intense moments in the Wenger-Mourinho rivalry, as they face each other for the final time today 👊 https://t.co/zj8cQQzZ8W

However, Wenger later apologised for the push in an interview, following a sending off and a touchline ban, saying he regretted his actions. Mourinho, too, came out and acknowledged he was shocked, as the Frenchman was 'the last of that type'.

Unbelievable coup from BeIN Sports to have Mourinho & Wenger as a pundit double-act tonight - exceptional quality of analysis throughout. Both linked with moves to France, both equally unsure about their futures here. https://t.co/fn2PJdWfoc

The pair has, since then, worked together on the same panel on multiple occasions during international tournaments. However, their rivalry in the Premier League gave fans some of the spiciest games and moments.


#3 Pep Guardiola (Manchester City) vs Jose Mourinho (Manchester United & Tottenham Hotspur)

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in conversation before a game.
Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in conversation before a game.

Three-time Premier League winner Pep Guardiola first arrived in England after two immensely successful spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Spaniard arrived at Manchester City with 21 major honours to his name as manager. That included two UEFA Champions League and six league titles. Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, had tasted success across Europe, engaging in battle with Guardiola during the pair's time in Spain.

In England, though, the clubs they managed could not have been further apart in terms of trajectory and ambition. However, that did not stop them from taking jibes at each other. Here is Mourinho's witty response when faced with a statement from Guardiola.

"Pep Guardiola told us last week that for him the Premier League is more important than the Champions League. What is more important for you?"Jose Mourinho with an expert response 😂 https://t.co/SnuWskcSTc

Mourinho, in several instances, has passed comments on Guardiola's typically animated behaviour on the touchline. He once said regarding the Spaniard:

"By the way, if I behaved the way on the touchline like he does, I have no chance to stay there - I'm out."

However, over the years, their rivalry has been much less in the spotlight, with the Manchester City tactician acknowledging that the pair share a 'good relationship'. Guardiola said in this regard:

"I absolutely prefer this; I don't like being in the limelight. His business is Tottenham, or before, United mine is City. We have to handle our team and backroom staff ,and we don't have time (for) other clubs - and could not care less. The only concern is what we have to do (against opponents)."

Guardiola is now looking to deliver yet another Premier League title for Manchester City. Meanwhile, Mourinho made a return to Italy with AS Roma to try and turn their fortunes around.


#2 Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) vs Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League
Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are arguably two of the most animated managers in world football.

Their antics and dynamism on the touchline have resulted in both managers building reputations as 'peculiar characters in football'. Klopp's Liverpool and Guardiola's City have given us some of the most mouthwatering clashes in recent Premier League history.

The two have had some fiery words for each other over the years, but have always shown respect at the end of it. That makes for one of the most exciting rivalries in Premier League history.

Pep Guardiola's City team, over the years, have often faced still battles for the Premier League title. The Spaniard has acknowledged Klopp's ability to fight and rally his troops.

"I've suffered a lot to Jurgen Klopp!" 😅Pep Guardiola revealed which of his Premier League rivals he admires on last night's special.Read the best bits from his appearance here: skysports.tv/trnqix https://t.co/fBmd7OugKc

Klopp, meanwhile, lost the Premier League title to Guardiola's City by a solitary point in 2018, despite garnering 97 points that season. However, he has maintained a respectable relationship with his counterpart, congratulating him and City on their Premier League title win last season.

📱 | 'I texted Pep and Ilkay last night!'Jurgen Klopp revealed he has congratulated Pep Guardiola on Manchester City's Premier League title triumph, calling him the 'best in the world'. https://t.co/iMq87v5bnG

Liverpool once again lost the 2021-22 Premier League trophy to Manchester City by a point, but there is no doubt the two sides will do battle next season.


#1 Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) vs Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

Arsene Wenger (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson yelling instructions at their players.
Arsene Wenger (left) and Sir Alex Ferguson yelling instructions at their players.

Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of Manchester United for an astounding 27 years, winning a record 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues. Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, was Arsenal's manager for 22 years, winning three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cups.

The pair was in the league together for 17 years, sharing 13 Premier League league titles during this period. In 2017, Arsene Wenger went past Ferguson's record of most Premier League games (811) in charge of a club.

811 @premierleague games for Arsene Wenger today - overhauling Sir Alex Ferguson's record!Can @Arsenal deliver a win for him? Watch live on Sky Sports Premier League or follow in-game clips and highlights here: skysports.tv/986deu https://t.co/LHA0Q9zlQ8

Their teams faced off in intense games that had a direct impact on the title race, as they were the two frontrunners for the league title. That often led to fiery encounters on the pitch, led by captains Patrick Vieira (Arsenal) and Roy Keane (Manchester United).

Patrick Vieira vs Roy Keane 👀Check out @SkySportsRetro for more throwback clips 👇https://t.co/tC2UmitYfR

However, as the years passed and the two gentlemen mellowed down, Wenger and Ferguson became more relaxed and graceful with each other. When Wenger's biopic recently came out, Ferguson heaped praise on the Frenchman for his incredible achievements with The Gunners.

🗣 "The achievement stands aside. It stands above everything else. And it was Arsenal’s.” - Sir Alex FergusonArsène Wenger: Invincible is OUT NOW: arsenewengerfilm.com/#order #WengerFilm https://t.co/xMFRlgMQz3

The pair has long since retired from their roles, leaving a huge rebuilding task to be accomplished at both Arsenal and Manchester United. Their legacies, however, will remain a part of Premier League folklore.

Edited by Bhargav
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