The Cult of the Manager: Who Will be England’s Boss of Bosses?

  • Big names Mourinho, Conte and Guardiola taking charge of new clubs
  • Will compete with the likes of Klopp, Wenger, Pochettino and Ranieri
  • So-called ’Cult of the Manager stronger now than ever

IT was born on a cold Old Trafford night in March 2004. The Cult of the Manager.

Alex Ferguson's Manchester United stood on the brink of progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, then FC Porto midfielder Costinha pounced on an error by Reds keeper Tim Howard to seal the tie 3-2.

An emotional up-and-coming young manager called Josu00e9 Mourinho famously tore off in a sprint of celebration down the touchline.

Fast forward to August 2016, 12 years on from the night that made him and the Special One is once again top of the bill in the Theatre of Dreams.

And the phenomenon he spearheaded, the Cult of the Manager, has never been more prevalent than it will be in this season's Barclay's Premier League.

Italy's passionate Euro 2016 coach Antonio Conte now in charge at Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp at the helm of a Liverpool he will have crafted this time, the inspirational Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs.

Oh, and Claudio Ranieri - all he did last season was take 5,000-1 outsider Leicester City to the title. When the action on the pitch gets dull this season the Cult of the Manager will keep us glued to the technical areas.

After David Moyes and Louis van Gaal the Manchester United fans have the sort of manager they craved to replace Ferguson.

As Jose settles in, Manchester City begin a new dynasty of their own under the guidance of former Real Madrid boss Mourinho's Barcelona tiki-taka nemesis Pep Guardiola.

English football possessed two of the biggest figures in management in Ferguson and Arsenal supremo Arsene Wenger when Mourinho joined Chelsea in 2004.

Yet each of these men had arrived from less prestigious beginnings than his back-to-back UEFA Cup and Champions League victories.

Mourinho's arrival ushered in a new era.He was the undoubted star of both Porto and the nouveau riche Chelsea and 'The Special One' brought a cockiness and swagger that both the media and fans instantly fell head over heels for.

In 2007/08 though, as Mourinho's first spell at Chelsea was drawing to a close, another young manager was turning heads in Spain.

Initially leading a Barcelona B team featuring Sergio Busquets, Pedro and Thiago to promotion, former club captain Guardiola earned a promotion to manage the senior squad back to greatness.

Four seasons, three La Liga titles, two Champions League titles and nine other trophies later, Guardiola had established himself as one of the greatest managers EVER before his 42nd birthday.

Mourinho and Guardiola would become sworn enemies. As manager of Inter Milan, Mourinho willingly conceded possession to Barcelona in 2010 and triumphed to clinch the Champions League and become the first Italian club to win a treble.

Sparking a rivalry that has become one of the most discussed topics of world football, Mourinho's appointment at Real Madrid only intensified what has become a battle of personal philosophies.

Over the next two seasons, El Classico was by far the biggest game in world football - the Galacticos of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos against the homegrown talent of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique.

What was rivalled only by Ronaldo vs Messi though, was the evolving tactical battle between Guardiola and Mourinho. Beautiful football staring down a win at all costs mentality.

While we have long had a fascination with managers dating back to Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough and Bob Paisley, Guardiola and Mourinho became the catalysts for a new way in which fans could engage with the game.

We are all guilty of transforming into the best managers in the world from the comfort of our living room - questioning decisions and shouting tactical changes at the TV that only we can see.

The vast majority of us can never relate to even the talent a relegation-bound player has in his weaker foot yet we can all put ourselves in the shoes of a manager for 90 minutes.

Only the very best managers have possessed the presence, the mysticism to place them beyond this scrutiny. Manchester United and Arsenal fans would long defend Ferguson and Wenger against criticism, adamant that their heroes were thinking one step beyond what other people could see.

But the players - Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robin Van Persie, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and many more - have always been the real stars of the show.

With Guardiola and Mourinho, we have seen a shift towards the Cult of the Manager.

For all the talent at Bayern Munich, it was Guardiola who brought the most interest - his intensity, tactical mastery and continuing search for the perfect style of football representing an ideal that fans from across the world could support.

During Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea, meanwhile, we saw who the fans really adored. While multi-million pound signings such as Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Fabregas were being booed at Stamford Bridge, the supporters consistently stuck behind their manager.

From Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid to Thomas Tuchel's Borussia Dortmund, we more keenly appreciate the impact a manager's principles have on their teams and are in a constant search for how this can be replicated at our own clubs.

In the Premier League last season this was epitomised by two managers with similar philosophies: Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.

In Klopp, Liverpool got the big name manager that the fans had longed for, while Pochettino has successfully brought the passion and pace that he implemented at Southampton to a more talented group of Tottenham players.

Both managers will now be widely regarded as the key components of their clubs' future. No matter which players come and go, the underlying tactical principles can guide the team and enable longer periods of sustainability.

Last season threw up the ultimate counterpoint as Ranieri led Leicester to what is probably the greatest ever achievement in team sport, all with a hands-off management style and faith in his players' decision-making on the field.

But with N'Golo Kante joining Chelsea and Riyad Mahrez expected to seek a move, will he be able to recapture anything like the form they had last season?

When Mourinho first joined Chelsea he was one of five foreign managers in the Premier League. In 2016/17, he will be one of 13.

Our obsession with the next big name, the foreign influence, the fresh perspective has seen the dugout transform as much as the teams on the pitch in the last decade or so.

From a managerial perspective then, the coming season looks to be the most exciting year ever in English football.

The Cult of the Manager will have more followers than ever.

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