This post provides a list of Manchester United’s best coaches ever. The club started way back in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR F.C., playing their first official match in October 1886 during the 1886–87 FA Cup.
They later became Manchester United F.C. in 1902 and moved to Old Trafford in 1910. And over the years, Manchester United has had 23 different head coaches, starting from 1892 up to the 2022–23 season.
The current coach, Erik ten Hag, took charge on May 23, 2022, following interim manager Ralf Rangnick. However, the longest-serving, and most successful manager in the history of Manchester United is Sir Alex Ferguson.
During his impressive 26-year term, the team won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, 10 Community Shields, two UEFA Champions League titles, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup.
However, In this post, I will share with you the best Manchester United managers of all time, and you will learn about their United managerial career statistics.
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Without further ado,
10 Manchester United’s Best Coaches Ever
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Matt Busby
Louis Van Gaal
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
1. Sir Alex Ferguson
Matches played – 1,500
Matches won – 895
Matches Draw – 338
Matches Loss – 267
Win rate – 59.7%
Sir Alex managed Manchester United for 26 years, from 1986 to 2013, and he’s won more trophies than any other manager in the history of football.
During his time at Manchester United, he racked up a total of 38 trophies. This included 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two UEFA Champions League titles.
If you ask me, he’s the man who knew how to win. He also holds the record for being the longest-serving manager at Manchester United, surpassing the legendary Sir Matt Busby’s record in 2010.
Unfortunately, Sir Alex didn’t just hang around, he knew when to call it a day. He retired from management at the end of the 2012–13 season and won the Premier League in his final season.
2. Sir Matt Busby
Matches played – 21
Matches won – 11
Matches Draw – 3
Matches Loss – 7
Win rate – 52.4%
Matt Busby managed Manchester United from 1945 to 1969, and then from 1970–71 season. And he was the first manager of any English team to win the European Cup.
Before he became a manager, Busby was a player himself, and he played for two of Manchester United’s biggest rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool.
During his time at City, he played in two FA Cup Finals, winning one of them. But life had bigger plans for him.
After his playing career, Busby was offered the job of assistant coach at Liverpool. However, they weren’t willing to give him the control he wanted over the first team.
So, instead of settling for less, he took the vacant manager’s job at Manchester United, and that decision changed football history.
Matt Busby is famously known for creating the “Busby Babes” team at Manchester United. These young talents were the future of English football.
Tragically, eight of these players lost their lives in the Munich air disaster. Despite the immense setback of the Munich air disaster, Busby rebuilt the team, and a decade later, Manchester United won the European Cup.
That said, In his 25 years with the club, Matt Busby’s achievements were loud, winning a total of 13 trophies.
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3. Ernest Mangnall
Matches played – 350
Matches won – 151
Matches Draw – 117
Matches Loss – 82
Win rate – 43.14%
Ernest Mangnall was a pivotal figure in football management in the early 1900s, coaching Manchester United between 1903 and 1912. Back in those days, the term ‘manager’ wasn’t commonly used.
Mangnall was hired as the third secretary of Manchester United, taking the reins after the club had changed its name from Newton Heath. In his first two seasons, the team narrowly missed promotion.
However, the third time proved to be a joy, as they finished as runners-up in the Second Division, earning a ticket to the First Division.
In only their second season in the First Division, Mangnall led Manchester United to their first-ever League Championship in 1907–08, with a comfortable nine-point margin over Aston Villa.
The following year, Manchester United clinched their first FA Cup, triumphing over Bristol City with a 1–0 victory in the final, with the winning goal scored by Sandy Turnbull.
Manchester United also secured their second League Championship in the 1910-11 season, beating Aston Villa by just one point. However, this marked the end of their league championship successes for over 40 years.
Ernest Mangnall is not just remembered for his Manchester United success as he went on to manage Manchester City, becoming the only person to have managed both of Manchester’s football giants.
4. José Mourinho
Matches played – 144
Matches won – 84
Matches Draw – 32
Matches Loss – 28
Win rate – 58.33%
In May 2016, José Mourinho took the reins at Manchester United, signing a three-year contract with an option to extend. His arrival brought excitement to Old Trafford, and he quickly made his presence felt.
Mourinho’s term got off to a promising start. In August 2016, he secured his first trophy for the club, the FA Community Shield, with a victory over reigning Premier League champions Leicester City.
He also won his first Premier League game as United boss with a 3-1 victory against AFC Bournemouth. In September 2016, Mourinho lost his first Manchester derby as a manager to Manchester City.
This was a sign of the fierce rivalry between Mourinho and his counterpart, Pep Guardiola, which had begun during their time in Spain. One of Mourinho’s significant achievements during his first season was winning the EFL Cup.
Manchester United defeated Southampton in the final, making Mourinho the first United manager to win a major trophy in his debut season.
In May 2017, Mourinho added another major trophy to his collection when Manchester United won the Europa League with a 2-0 victory over Ajax.
This victory also maintained his record of winning every major European Cup final as a manager. The following season presented challenges as Manchester United finished second in the Premier League, trailing behind Manchester City.
Mourinho faced criticism, especially after Manchester United’s Champions League exit to Sevilla. The club also lost the 2018 FA Cup Final to Chelsea.
That said, Mourinho’s time at Manchester United came to an end in December 2018 after a challenging start to the 2018-19 season, and the club decided to part ways with him.
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5. Ron Atkinson
Matches played – 292
Matches won – 146
Matches Draw – 67
Matches Loss – 79
Win rate – 50.0%
In the early 1980s, Manchester United needed a fresh start, and the board decided to make Atkinson their new head coach. Before Atkinson’s arrival, Manchester United had struggled.
His predecessor, Dave Sexton, had brought the team to second place in the league but hadn’t secured any major trophies during his four-year spell.
Atkinson took charge when United finished eighth in the league. In the 1981–82 season, Atkinson made some key signings. He brought in Bryan Robson from West Bromwich Albion and added Remi Moses and Frank Stapleton to the squad.
These signings injected life into the team. Atkinson also handed a debut to young talent Norman Whiteside, who later became a key player.
The 1982–83 season was marked by two Wembley appearances, including an FA Cup victory against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Manchester United also finished third in the league, indicating that they were on the path to resurgence. During this period, Norman Whiteside emerged as one of the top-performing players in the First Division.
His talent was seen, and he played a crucial role in the FA Cup final replay victory against Brighton. In the 1983–84 season, Manchester United reached the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
However, their FA Cup defense ended shockingly with a defeat to AFC Bournemouth. Despite their league form, injuries to key players disrupted their campaign.
In the 1984–85 season, Manchester United clinched the FA Cup once again. They were denied the chance to compete in the European Cup Winners’ Cup due to the Heysel disaster, which resulted in a ban on English clubs from European competitions.
6. Tommy Docherty
Docherty’s time with Manchester United began unexpectedly. In December 1972, he attended a match in which United suffered a devastating 5-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.
After the match, Matt Busby, a Manchester United legend, offered him the job as the club’s manager. Docherty’s first game in charge saw a 1-1 draw against Leeds United.
When he took over, Manchester United was in serious trouble due to an aging squad, but Docherty managed to keep them in the First Division for the 1972–73 season.
The 1973–74 season proved challenging, and Manchester United was eventually relegated to the Second Division. However, they didn’t stay down for long.
In the following season, they returned to the top flight as Second Division champions. During the 1975–76 season, the team finished third in the First Division and reached the 1976 FA Cup Final.
Unfortunately, they lost 1–0 to Southampton, who were then in the Second Division. But Docherty and his team were not to be discouraged.
In 1977, they reached the FA Cup final again, this time as underdogs, facing league champions Liverpool. Manchester United defeated Liverpool 2–1, securing a historic FA Cup win.
Shortly after this triumph, news of Docherty’s extramarital affair with the wife of a United physiotherapist, Mary Brown, became public.
This scandal led to his dismissal in July 1977, amidst a blaze of publicity. Dave Sexton, the same man who had replaced him at Chelsea, took over at Old Trafford. The affair also marked the end of Docherty’s marriage to his wife Agnes.
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7. Louis Van Gaal
Matches played – 103
Matches won – 54
Matches Draw – 25
Matches Loss – 24
Win rate – 52.43%
In May 2014, Louis van Gaal stepped into the shoes of David Moyes, making history as Manchester United’s first manager from outside the British Isles.
Upon arrival, Van Gaal faced a daunting task as he inherited what he described as a “broken” Manchester United squad. However, he was determined to bring about change and promised to give youth a chance.
Ed Woodward, Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, expressed his confidence in the new manager, stating that Van Gaal had impressed everyone around the club.
During his tenure from July 2014 to May 2016, Van Gaal oversaw 103 matches, with 54 wins, 25 draws, and 24 losses, maintaining a win percentage of approximately 52.43%.
Louis van Gaal’s time at Manchester United may have had its challenges, but it also had moments of promise and transformation.
8. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Matches played – 168
Matches won – 91
Matches Draw – 37
Matches Loss – 40
Win rate – 54.17%
Ole Gunnar Solskjær became Manchester United’s caretaker manager In December 2018, succeeding José Mourinho for the remainder of the 2018–19 season.
Initially, it was meant to be a temporary role, with plans for his return to Molde in May 2019. Solskjær’s spell began on a high note, as Manchester United triumphed 5–1 over Cardiff City in his first match.
This victory was the first time United had scored five or more goals in a Premier League game since Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell in May 2013.
The Norwegian went on to win his first five league games, emulating Sir Matt Busby’s feat in 1946. Solskjær’s impressive start earned him the Premier League Manager of the Month title for January 2019.
During that month, United amassed 10 points out of a possible 12, making him the first United manager to clinch the award since Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012 and the first Norwegian to receive such recognition.
In the Champions League, Solskjær experienced his first managerial loss, with Paris Saint-Germain defeating United 2–0 at Old Trafford.
However, an exciting 3–1 comeback in the second leg, featuring a late Marcus Rashford penalty, saw United advance to the quarter-finals.
Despite his early success, United’s form fluctuated, and they fell out of the FA Cup and the Champions League. Nevertheless, he signed a three-year contract in March 2019, making him the permanent manager.
The 2019–20 season began on a shaky note, with United enduring their worst league start in 33 years. They faced criticism from fans and saw thousands leaving Old Trafford early in a match against Burnley.
The arrival of Bruno Fernandes marked a turning point. United went unbeaten in the Premier League from February 2020, finishing third with 66 points. Overall, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s time at Manchester United was a rollercoaster ride.
9. David Moyes
Matches played – 51
Matches won – 27
Matches Draw – 9
Matches Loss – 15
Win rate – 52.94%
David Moyes arrived at Manchester United in July 2013, hand-picked by Sir Alex Ferguson to succeed him. Moyes began with a win in the FA Community Shield against Wigan Athletic, making him one of the managers in the club’s history to secure a trophy in his debut season.
United also started their Premier League campaign with a victory against Swansea City. However, this early success soon gave way to a dismal run, including a defeat to Liverpool and a string of poor results.
Despite domestic struggles, Moyes guided United through a successful Champions League group stage, finishing at the top. Still, Premier League woes continued with losses at home to Everton and Newcastle United.
However, United’s FA Cup and Football League Cup campaigns ended in disappointment. Fan frustration mounted, with a banner reading “Wrong One – Moyes Out” flown during a match against Aston Villa.
Moyes’s tenure came to an end in April 2014 after a loss to Everton. He lasted only 10 months, making it the third-shortest managerial stint in United’s history.
The club was seventh in the Premier League, facing a failure to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in nearly two decades.
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10. Scott Duncan
Matches played – 223
Matches won – 88
Matches Draw – 85
Matches Loss – 50
Win rate – 39.5%
In June 1932, Scott Duncan took on the role of secretary-manager at Manchester United, and he made important investments in acquiring new players.
But as the 1933–34 season neared its conclusion, Manchester United faced the possibility of dropping down to the Third Division.
However, Duncan engineered a remarkable transformation, leading Manchester United to secure the Second Division championship in the 1935–36 season.
Douglas Jay is a Manchester United FC fan who has followed the sport for years. He is also a Footiehound Editor with a huge passion for the round leather game.