Friday 23 August 2019

Alex Ferguson's great escape and four other managerial turnarounds

Can Jose Mourinho follow in former Manchester United manager's footsteps?

Alex Ferguson won his final Premier League title with Manchester United in 2013
Alex Ferguson won his final Premier League title with Manchester United in 2013
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

We never expected to see emotional Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho with his back pinned to the ropes as he has been in the last few weeks, but he could yet be on his way to engineering one of the great managerial revivals.

Few gave Mourinho much hope of surviving in his job as his side’s horrible start to the season hit rock bottom when Liverpool recorded a 3-1 win against the Premier League champions at Anfield last Saturday.

A week on and Mourinho is preparing for his next Premier League game as Blues boss, even though he will not be allowed to attend Saturday’s game at Stoke due to the stadium ban handed down to him by the Football Association as punishment for being the game’s most persistent offender.

If Mourinho does avoid the bullet that seemed destined to come his way from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, it may most improbably managerial near miss of all-time, joining this list of touchline tactician who defied the odds to triumph in the end.

ALEX FERGUSON (Manchester United)

There will never be a revival to beat that of United and English football’s most successful manager of them all.

Most United fans had come to the conclusion that this hardline Scot needed to go after three less than successful years at the helm of the Old Trafford club, amid an era of the game that was being dominated by their fierce rivals Liverpool.

The pressure was building on Ferguson through the 1989-90 season, with a 4-1 defeat against Coventry in October leaving United in a lowly 14th position and supporters questioning why the club were sticking with their manager.

A run of six games that featured just one goal in the run-up to Christmas left Ferguson on the brink of the axe as he took his side to Nottingham Forest for an FA Cup third round tie on January 7th 1990.

Famously, Mark Robins scored a winning goal for United against Brian Clough’s side to ensure his manager would have a few more weeks to prove his worth and when he won the FA Cup the following May, his trophy collecting legacy had begun.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Tributes have been paid to Howard Kendall


The tributes to Kendall poured in following his passing last month and all were entirely merited, as this fine manager built a thrilling team in his first spell as Everton boss and managed to stem the flow of trophies stacking up for their neighbours Liverpool.

Yet history may have had a very different tale to tell of Kendall if the Everton board had taken the plunge and sacked Kendall after a poor run of results for his team in the 1983-84 season.

There was a suggestion that Kendall would have been sacked if his side had not won a League Cup tie watched by just 9,080 fans against Coventry in early November and by the time he bundled his way through to another tie in the same competition at Oxford, his future was well and truly on the line.

Adrian Heath’s equaliser secured Everton a replay against Oxford and they went all the way to the final of the competition, eventually losing to Liverpool.

Yet an FA Cup Final win against Watford established Kendall’s position and after he won the old First Division title a year later, his status as a managerial giant was confirmed.


MARTIN O’NEILL (Leicester)

The Foxes fans were out to get O’Neill as his brand of ‘direct’ football was not what they wanted to see from their beloved team.

Scraping into the play-offs in the second tier of the English game, few Leicester fans expected to be celebrating promotion at Wembley in May 1996, but a Steve Claridge goal changed everything for the coach now in charge of the Republic of Ireland.

The mood around O’Neill altered in an instant and after he led Leicester to League Cup wins in 1997 and 2000, he was transformed from being an unwanted outsider into a local hero who was the subject of a ‘Don’t Go Martin’ campaign when Celtic came calling.

How quickly an audience can turn.

Alan Pardew left Newcastle in January to take over at Crystal Palace

ALAN PARDEW (Newcastle)

Pardew was never wanted by the Newcastle supporters when he replaced the popular Chris Hughton in December 2010 and not even a remarkable 5th place finish in the 2011-12 Premier League season would dilute the animosity towards this London.

It is wise to reflect that Pardew led Newcastle to the Europe League quarter-finals in 2013 and yet a year later, the club’s supporters were starting to gather momentum for their ‘Pardew Out’ campaign.

It reached fever pitch by the start of the 2014-15 season, with banners and leaflets calling for him to be sacked displayed around St James’ Park, with some fans seemingly keen for Newcastle to lose just to get rid of Pardew.

In the end, the man in the eye of their storm had the last laugh as he left the club in a healthy position in the Premier League and had enjoyed plenty of success in his next job at Crystal Palace.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have struggled to gather an ounce of momentum in his absence.

That ‘Pardew Out’ campaign all looks a bit silly now.

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri


Hands up who saw the appointment of Ranieri at Leicester as one of the most significant of this Premier League season?

Okay, many of us believed it was a key decision that had been made, but for all the wrong reasons, as Ranieri was not viewed as the figure who would inspired the Fixes to a points haul of 21 points from their first 11 matches.

His stock in the game had taken a battering since his sacking as Chelsea boss back in 2004, with a woeful spell in charge of the Greek national team side leading many to conclude that the ‘Tinkerman’ was a tactician who was not longer credible at the highest level.

We have all be proved wrong and credit to this Italian for his success so far.

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