In the spirit of competition it is inevitable that tempers occasionally flare and feuds develop, but this is usually contained to players on the pitch. Sometimes this will seep over to the touchlines however, where the men in suits patrolling the sideline will develop a disdain for their counterpart and not be afraid of showing it. For fans, these managerial feuds can be much more entertaining as it is almost expected for players to clash, but for two grown men (usually 50+) who are supposed to be level headed to get into each other's faces can be highly entertaining and add spice to the game.
These feuds usually develop through the action on the pitch; where 1 manager may be disgusted by the actions of one of the other manager’s players or perhaps it is a clear tactic that 1 manager is using to get the upper hand in the competition. It is usually teams close to each other in the table or cross town rivals where these tempers will flare, and the crowd can certainly contribute to the tense atmosphere in these matches.
It is not just on the pitch where these feuds develop however, it is also in the press. Before or after the match, managers will often take subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) digs at the other manager. This will usually see them trade blows via interviews with the press and it is here where mind games come into play, much like a boxer disrespecting his opponent before a big fight. Of course when the two teams then meet there is added drama to the occasion.
Some of these feuds have been one off clashes on the sidelines and stolen all the attention from the match, a few have lasted a few weeks or months, and there are then a few which go way back and always provide a great source of entertainment for fans. As this list demonstrates, there are a few repeat offenders and managers who have a penchant for winding up their opposite number.
Here are the top 10 manager feuds.
10 Steve Bruce vs Gus Poyet
This may have been a short lived feud, but it was certainly an entertaining one back in March when the Hull manager Steve Bruce and (then) Sunderland boss Gus Poyet had a touchline dust-up. After Jack Rodwell was booked for simulation, Poyet was clearly livid with the decision and kicked over a crate of drinks before storming over to Bruce. The two exchanged heated words before Bruce had to be physically restrained by both his coaches and officials; Poyet was then sent to the stands in bizarre scenes which certainly fired up the crowd.
Steve Bruce’s honest reflection on the incident as “grown men acting like children” was accurate, and Poyet later told the press that the two had made up and that he was “happy to have a glass of wine with him.” Neither manager has revealed what was said during the incident, but it clearly wasn’t a pleasant exchange between the two.
9 Sir Alex Ferguson vs Roberto Mancini
It seems inevitable that the managers of the two Manchester clubs will always clash, and particularly because in the last few years they have finished as close to each other in the table as they are geographically. As this list demonstrates, Ferguson is the master of winding up his opposite number, and Mancini is famously a very emotional man so this seemed like the perfect pairing for an entertaining feud.
They did not disappoint, most notably in a fixture near the end of the 2012 season, where the two had to be separated after a spat on the sideline which continued through the post match interviews. After heavy tackle on Danny Welbeck, Ferguson jumped up and made a gesture at Mancini suggesting that he was talking to the officials too much, which Mancini then mimicked and the two had to be separated. After the match, Fergie claimed Mancini “was out on the touchline the whole game haranguing the referee, fourth official and the linesmen”.
8 Jose Mourinho vs Tito Vilanova
The Barcelona – Real Madrid rivalry is one of the best in all of sports, and you just knew that things would only get better once a manager as antagonising as Jose Mourinho took over at the Bernabeu. In a Supercup match in 2011, a fight broke out between the two teams following a Marcelo challenge on Cesc Fabregas which saw the Madrid player sent off. In the midst of the clash, Mourinho came up behind Vilanova and gouged him in the eye, causing the Barca assistant coach to shove Mourinho. Both were fined and given suspensions for the ugly scenes in what is one of the more memorable touchline dust-ups of all-time. After Vilanova sadly passed in 2014, Mourinho paid tribute to his former rival.
7 Billy Davies vs Nigel Clough
Although it has been played down over the years, the rivalry between Billy Davies and Nigel Clough is very real and Clough has admitted “we’ve had a few run-ins over the years.” This is most notable in the Midlands derby between Derby and Nottingham Forest a few seasons ago, when Derby (managed by Clough) ended Forest’s 19 game unbeaten streak. A melee broke out towards the end of the game which involved players and coaches, with Billy Davies claiming that Clough had kneed him in the back (like father, like son). Clough denies the allegations, but when asked if he gets on with Davies he curtly replied “not especially.”
6 Sir Alex Ferguson vs Rafa Benitez
A fierce feud was born when Benitez’s Liverpool side were challengers to the title, providing many memorable hissy fits and confrontations between the two (which were renewed when Benitez became interim boss at Chelsea). It all began in 2009, when Benitez went on a memorable rant where he listed “facts” surrounding Fergie including that he was the only manager who cannot be punished, Ferguson replied that the Liverpool boss was an “angry man.”
The two exchanged many more barbs over the years before Benitez departed, but Ferguson spent little time before whipping things up again when he returned in 2012 by claiming that Benitez was lucky to get the job due to his CV and lack of titles. The two also famously did not shake hands that season, the biggest sign of bad blood between managers.
5 Kevin Keegan vs Sir Alex Ferguson
This managerial feud is a fan favourite due to Kevin Keegan’s memorable outburst in an interview where it became clear that Fergie had gotten inside the Newcastle boss’s head. Ferguson had suggested that other teams would not try as hard against league leaders Newcastle (who led by as many as 12 points that season). In the interview, Keegan’s frustration mounted and he famously stated “I will love it if we beat them. Love it.” This has since been voted the most memorable quote in the Premier League. Keegan then admitted “but it really has got to me” and he was clearly seething at Ferguson’s words. Man United went on to win the title by four points.
4 Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola
Mourinho seems to have a gift for pushing peoples buttons, and he certainly knew how to do this with Guardiola (some claim the now Chelsea boss is partly responsible for the former Barca’s sabbatical). When the two managed Real Madrid and Barcelona, Mourinho made several comments in the media about Guardiola criticising the referee, and eventually the usually calm Barcelona boss could take it no more and unleashed his fury in a famous press conference in 2011. Guardiola, in the Madrid press room, stated “in this room, he is the chief, the f***ing man. In here he is the f***ing man and I can’t compete with him”. Madrid went on to win the league and Guardiola took a year off of football. The feud did not stop here however, with Mourinho once again winding up the now Bayern Munich boss in 2014 by saying “when you enjoy what you do, you don’t lose your hair, and Guardiola is bald. He doesn’t enjoy football.”
3 Sir Alex Ferguson vs Arsene Wenger
For many years it was Manchester United and Arsenal that dominated English football, and this sparked an intense rivalry between the two bosses. Sir Alex Ferguson wasted no time getting things started when Wenger moved to Arsenal in 1996, stating “they say he’s an intelligent man, right? Speaks five languages? I’ve got a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages.”
The frosty relationship turned ice cold when United ended Arsenal’s remarkable unbeaten run the managers and players clashed in the tunnel, with food being thrown and Cesc Fabregas allegedly threw pizza at the United boss. Fergie told reporters that Wenger was “a disgrace”, with Wenger retorting “he has lost all sense of reality. He is going out looking for a confrontation, then asking the person he is confronting to apologise.” After many years of intensity and some entertaining barbs, the two appeared to settle their differences a few years ago.
2 Sir Alex Ferguson vs Kenny Dalglish
The feud between these 2 Scots lasted 30 years and initially began when the 2 met in a Celtic v Rangers reserve match. Fast forward to their managerial careers, and there was always a level of respect between the 2 managers, but underlying this there was an intense rivalry and desire to come out on top. This resulted in plenty of entertainment for the fans, all starting after a draw at Anfield where Ferguson said the home crowd influenced the referees. Dalglish suggested the press should speak to his new born baby, as “you’ll get more sense out of her”.
1 Arsene Wenger vs Jose Mourinho
This classic feud always ensures for drama each time Arsenal and Chelsea face off, and these two managers have never seen eye to eye as they both employ very different football philosophies. Mourinho has never shied away from slandering the Arsenal boss, including memorable quotes such as “he is what you call in England a voyeur. He is someone who likes to watch other people,” and “he’s a specialist in failure.” After the Arsenal fans claimed that Chelsea were boring (something that Wenger has always hinted at), Mourinho hit back “boring is 10 years without a title.”
The feud between these two had always been through the press, but a match earlier this season saw things boil over on the touchline when Wenger shoved the Chelsea boss and a heated argument developed, much to the amusement of the fans. Mourinho is clearly a thorn in Wenger’s side, as in addition to the jibes in the press, Mourinho always seems to outfox the Arsenal boss and is unbeaten in their last 12 meetings.
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