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When Bosses Clash: Five heated football managerial rivalries

| 29.07.2015

After arriving at Real Madrid, Rafa Bentiez’s wife refuelled a spat between her husband and former Los Blancos boss Jose Mourinho, claiming they are cleaning up his mess in Spain two years after ‘the Special One’ left the 13/8 La Liga title chances with Coral and the Bernabeu.

Following this bad blood being revisited, we look at five other heated managerial rivalries that provided us with plenty of entertainment and drama in the beautiful game.


Ferguson v Wenger
The longest running rivalry in the Premier League, before Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, with the Scot having clashed with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger for many spectacular Premier League campaigns.

Arsenal and United were undoubtedly the two best clubs in England, before the arrival of Chelsea as a major powerhouse, and the pair endured a furious relationship until the latter stages of Ferguson’s career at Old Trafford.

Ferguson, the more senior of the two, greeted Wenger’s arrival in the top-flight by 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.”

A menacing encounter came in 2004, when both sets of players, along with the two feisty managers came together in the tunnel following the Invincibles’ run being ended, with Ferguson claiming he was struck by a slice of pizza.

Wenger has denied launching it himself, with Cesc Fabregas also a rumoured suspect for the incident which has since been named ‘Pizzagate’. A very tasty rivalry.

Tensions between the trophy-laden duo eased when Mourinho, a threat to both bosses, arrived on the scene, but their many clashes have given fans plenty of memorable moments down the years as they battled for superiority.

Mourinho v Guardiola
Having taken Chelsea to summit of England’s top tier and clinching a historic treble with Inter Milan, toppling Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona along the way to a Champions League win, Jose Mourinho touched down in Madrid in 2009 with the reputation of winning wherever he went.

That silverware dominance was tested to the limit by Guardiola, during his successful reign as Nou Camp boss, overseeing the rise of possibly the greatest ever club team in world football.

However, Mourinho’s relentless personal competition with his Spanish counterpart, coupled with the fact he was constantly feeding off the animosity, eventually paid off as Real pipped their rivals to the La Liga title, with Guardiola resigning after citing tiredness for his departure.

Clough v Revie
One of the greatest and most intense managerial rivalries witnessed in England occurred during the 1970s between Brian Clough and Don Revie, incredibly sparking moments of furious bust-ups.

Both were highly successful, taking a club of their own from the Second Division to being named Football League champions of the top flight; Clough with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and Revie with Leeds United.

The Whites dominated the early 1970s, but were undone by Clough’s Rams in 1972 by a single point to claim the league title, with the feisty boss constantly criticising Revie’s aggressive approach and lack of sportsmanship.

However, upon Revie’s departure from Elland Road, Clough was appointed his successor, but infamously lasted only 44 days in charge, with a TV interview later bringing the bad blood flooding back and a movie even being made based on their fierce rivalry.

Keegan v Ferguson
In February 1996, Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United side had a supreme 12-pint leads over Fergie’s Red Devils, but their season would ultimately end in a second-place finish behind United, with the Toon downfall being sparked by an emotional outburst from their under-pressure coach.

Keegan stated: “I will love it if we beat them! Love it!” Ferguson was credited with unsettling his rival, thus beginning years of apparent mind games between himself and fellow managers, along with silverware to show for it.

Mourinho v Wenger
The most recent clash in our list, with Mourinho and Wenger continuously at each other’s throats since the former returned to London.

Holding a dominant winning record over his opposite number, the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ could be forgiven for being confident when setting his Blues up against the Gunners, and he will look to reign supreme again this term (13/8 to retain title).

Wenger’s most scathing comment, and evident out pour of frustration, was: “He’s out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful. When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.”

Their long-standing rivalry has spawned many face-to-face meetings, including many touchline confrontations, a familiar sight that we can expect more of during the new season, when Wenger will want to finally beat his nemesis to the title (9/2 to win).



Lee Gormley

Lee joined the Coral team in 2014 after studying at Leeds Trinity University, having moved across the water from Ireland, and has plenty of industry experience from his time with various news outlets in both England and Northern Ireland. After graduating with a BA Honours degree in Sports Journalism, he has since become an important member of the talented sports desk, passionately covering boxing, football and snooker, among many other sports. Lee is also a massive Manchester United and Republic of Ireland fan, but curbs any bias during his work, and outside of his job can be found regularly taking part in sport himself, such as boxing, GAA and football.