A team’s style of play, mental strength, resilience and personality are often a mirror image of the team’s manager. A great manager gets the best out of his weak players, drives the team as a unit, diverts attention from the players, delivers that game-changing team talk and as a consequence, is a respected man in the footballing community.
The season gone by has seen incredible feats achieved by lesser known managers that go head-to-head with the big guns in TheHardTackle’s End Of Season Awards.
Who is your pick among the following?
Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd)
The grand old man of Manchester United has done it once again – 12 league titles now and a place in the European cup final to boot. This championship seems sweeter for Sir Alex in more ways than one. The Scot has led probably not one of his strongest sides to a title – a feat which seemed unlikely to critics around the world and even to some sections of Old Trafford faithful. However, his astute rotation of the squad allowed enough time for players to rest and recharge, and 21 Man United players received the winners medal – another testament of Ferguson’s imperious management. There wasn’t much separating the top sides in the Barclays Premier League but the man that mattered was in the red half of Manchester.
Pep Guardiola (Barcelona)
Guardiola’s Barcelona has once again dominated Spain – this time in the presence of Jose Mourinho, who was hired by Perez to stop the Barca juggernaut. Not only that, the young manager mauled Mourinho’s team in the first edition of El Clasico, which forced Fiorentino Perez to term the game as the worst in the history of Real Madrid. Despite losing out to the Portuguese tactician, in extra time, in the Copa del Rey final, Guardiola’s men managed to keep the domestic league in their possession for the third time in as many years and also prevailed over Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals to set a date with Manchester United at Wembley. With the likelihood of a tenth trophy in the third year, Guardiola is surely a promising candidate for Manager of the Year honour.
Massimiliano Allegri (AC Milan)
He was appointed the head coach of AC Milan after being released by Cagliari. Taking over the reins from former Rossoneri, Leonardo, Allegri led Milan to their first Scudetto in over 7 years. At the onset, he was very unsure about how to manage the big names in the Milan squad. With Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Cassano all in the same team, the manager has to be of strong character to put everyone in their rightful place and more importantly, put the team ahead of anything else. In his first few matches, he usually fielded the big names, leaving the young and upcoming players on the bench. As the season progressed, success changed him, and he grew into the role of managing one of the bigger clubs in the world. He started to gradually use different players in different situations and those changes yielded instant results. The re-emergence of Gattuso is a result of Allegri’s tinkering with the squad. With an eye to build the team for the future, he also brought in young as well as experienced talents.
Andres Villas-Boas* (FC Porto)
(Although the manager is from outside the four leagues under the scanner, the magnitude of his domestic and European achievements are too exceptional to be neglected.)
This season one team demolished everything that came in its way and marched towards European glory. Porto FC has taken Portugal and Europe by storm, comfortably winning the domestic league, staying unbeaten, and capturing the Europa League. This unprecedented success can be attributed to the genius of one man – Andre Villas Boas. In his first full season as a manager, the 32-year old Portuguese has managed to draw the attention of every major club in Europe, thanks to his accomplishments. Porto have dismantled teams with confidence, which shows in their brilliant performances against Villarreal, Spartak Moscow and Benfica. It’s hard for the Portuguese tactician to move away from the shadow of Jose Mourinho, his mentor, but the way he has began, it’s not advisable to bet against him for doing just that. We believe he can give the veterans, grouped in this category with him, a run for their money.
Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund)
Jurgen Klopp led Borussia Dortmund to their first Bundesliga trophy in 10 years. This campaign was truly memorable for the Die Borussen, as their young team which had an average of just 23 out-classed and out-performed the competition, including the mighty Bayern Munich, who lost twice to the eventual champions. Klopp not only managed to bring the best out of his youngsters but also made they play as a team. After joining the club in May, 2008, the former manager of Mainz has completely transformed Dortmund – from a 13th place finish in the league to the pinnacle of German football. And, the fact that he did it without any established superstar speaks volumes about his achievement. In the 2010-11 season, his young guns were a joy to watch.
Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) has been voted the best manager of the season by readers of THT. The phenomenal Scot has built an empire of dominance in England and he repeated his success this season. Sir Alex pipped Andreas Villas-Boas by a small margin; the close competition proving that the rise of the sensational Portuguese isn’t going unnoticed.