As one of the biggest and most successful football clubs in the world, Manchester United have had some fantastic leaders at the helm over the years. Here, we list our picks for the top 5 Best Man United managers of all time and their best-ever Xl that helped them achieve greatness.
Last updated: 15/05/2023 at 11:53
The Red Devils are one of the biggest and most successful football clubs in the history of the beautiful game.
The Northern juggernaut has a record 66 major honours to their name, including 20 Premier League titles, 12 FA Cups and three Champions League titles.
In order to achieve that level of success, the club has seen some of football's finest managers take charge at Old Trafford, as well as some of the game's greatest-ever players.
The club has had more than a few great managers over the years, so picking the top 5 is no easy task. However, at Seat Unique we've done the hard work for you and named not only the top 5 greatest Man United managers but also their best-ever squads.
Keep reading to find out who they are, and how you can get VIP tickets to see Manchester United play live.Book Manchester United hospitality
1981 - 1986 | Games: 292 | Wins: 146 | Honours: 3
‘Big’ Ron Atkinson was seen as the perfect man to bring the glory, glory nights back to Old Trafford after the club had slipped into a slump under previous manager Dave Sexton.
He immediately made an impact at the club, finishing third in the league to qualify for the UEFA Cup and bringing in some fantastic new players, including a 1.5 million pound man and future club captain Bryan Robson.
During his five years at the club, Atkinson completely revitalised the team and ushered in a new era for the Red Devils as they were back at the top of their game.
Big Ron never delivered a league title in his time at the club, however, he did pick up two FA Cups and one Charity Shield.
Atkinson’s two FA Cup wins and five successive top-four finishes made him the most successful manager since Sir Matt Busby up to that point. He left the club in 1986 and was replaced by a certain Scotsman who also features on this list.
Ron Atkinson’s best Xl
Big Ron’s Xl features long-time goalkeeper Gary Bailey between the sticks, and a back line of Arthur Albiston, Kevin Moran, Gordon McQueen and Mike Duxbury, who made a combined 1,348 appearances for the club.
The midfield features the prolific pairing of Lou Macari and Steve Coppell on the left and right, with Gordon Strachan and the club's longest-serving club captain ever Bryan Robson in the middle.
Up front, we have gone for the strike partnership of Mark Hughes and Frank Stapleton. Hughes was very successful in his time at United netting 163 times for the Red Devils before transferring to Barcelona, and Frank Stapleton was considered to be one of the best in the world in his position.
2016 - 2018 | Games: 144 | Wins: 84 | Honours: 3
Manchester United have really struggled to find a winning manager since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, the only man that seemed to find any sort of success is a serial winner and tactical mastermind Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese gaffer took charge of the Red Devils in 2016 after former manager Louis Van Gaal failed to make any real impact. He immediately got off to a winning start, with a 3-1 league win against AFC Bournemouth and a victory against reigning league champions Leicester in the Charity Shield final.
Mourinho won his first major trophy at United in his debut season with a 3-2 Carabao Cup victory over Southampton, becoming the club’s first-ever manager to win a trophy in their first season. He then went on to win the Europa League the following season.
‘The Special One’s’ time in charge of United was filled with the usual Mourinho antics, including hilarious post-match interviews and controversial digs at referee Anthony Taylor.
Although Mourinho’s time at the club is most known for his controversial behaviour and public complaints about his players, the ‘The Special One’ picked up three pieces of silverware and brought United back up to the top four. He left with a 58.33 win percentage, a record only bested by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Jose Mourinho’s best Xl
David De Gea features in goal for ‘The Special One’s’ best Xl, the Spain international was one of the top keepers in the world during Mourinho's tenure at the club.
In the back line, we have the solid centre-back pairing of Victor Lindelӧf and Eric Bailly, with long-time club servant Antonio Valencia and 30 million-pound man Luke Shaw in the fullback positions.
In the midfield, we have Mourinho's trusted pairing of defensive maestro Nemanja Matic and attacking wizard Juan Mata, with his record 89.3 million pound signing Paul Pogba in the central position.
The attack is headed up by academy sensation Marcus Rashford and prolific Swede marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Wayne Roney features in attacking midfield, although the club's record goalscorer was entering the twilight of his career he was still a huge attacking threat.
1903 - 1912 | Games: 471 | Wins: 242 | Honours: 5
At number three on our list we have the man that started it all at Manchester United, Ernest Mangnall.
The Bolton-born ex-goalkeeper was hired as the ‘Secretary’ of Manchester United in 1903 as the term manager was not yet used at that time, although many do label him as the club’s first gaffer.
When Mangnall was first appointed the club was in turmoil, off the back of some of their poorest seasons on record. In his first season, Magnall brought in a number of high-profile signings for the club that completely transformed their fortunes.
In the nine years under his tenure, Manchester United went from a club on the brink of extinction to two-time First Division league champions, also winning one FA Cup and 2 Charity Shields along the way.
Ernest Mangnall built the foundations that make Manchester United the super club that they are today and still remains the club’s third most successful manager, earning him a deserved place on this list.
Ernest Mangnall’s best Xl
Ernest Mangnall’s best-ever Xl features two strikers of the same name that combined for 137 goals in Jimmy and Sandy Turnbull. Sandy was the more prolific of the two, however, Jimmy netted some important goals of his own, scoring the first ever hattrick in a Charity Shield final.
The wing positions were the biggest strength in Mangnall’s squads, with George Wall averaging almost a goal every three games and the ‘Welsh Wizard’ Billy Meredith causing havoc for defenders down the right.
Dick Duckworth has been moved up to midfield for the purpose of fitting him in this squad, as the defensive ace was key to the club's success, along with his predecessor and regular first-team player Alex Downie.
The defence includes trusty long-serving goalkeeper Harry Moger, as well as legendary club captain, Charlie Roberts, alongside his unbreakable defensive partner Alex Bell. On the left and right of the defence are long-time wingbacks Vince Hayes and George Stacey, two fantastic servants to the club.
Sir Matt Busby
1945 - 1969 + 1970 -1971 | Games: 1,141 | Wins: 576 | Honours: 13
Sir Matt Busby signed with Manchester United on a five-year deal in 1945. Upon his signing, the club had been bouncing between the first and second divisions and had not won a trophy since the days of Ernest Mangnall before the first world war.
The Scottish-born manager immediately made his mark on the club, leading them to a second-placed finish in the 1947, 1948 and 1949 seasons, as well as winning the FA Cup in 1948.
In his tenure with the club, Busby won a whopping 13 major honours, including five league titles, two FA Cups and one European Cup.
He also brought through some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, such as Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best. During this time, Busby assembled one of the world's best squads and picked up the nickname ‘Busby’s Babes’.
In 1957, as Busby and his squad looked to continue building upon their wild success of the ten years prior, their plane crashed en route back from a European game causing the tragic deaths of 23 players and staff.
In the years after the crash, Busby successfully rebuilt United from the ground up, winning a further one FA Cup and two league titles.
Sir Matt Busby is an undoubted legend of the game. His continued success, his revolution of the game and his spirit helped him to continue his winning ways after such a tragic disaster. That's why he has earned a very deserved second place on our list.
Sir Matt Busby’s best Xl
Sir Matt Busby’s best Xl is up there as one of the best squads of all time. Featuring one of the most dangerous front threes of all time with Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, who scored a combined 665 goals for the club.
In the midfield are the legendary Duncan Edwards and Nobby Stiles, two of the toughest and most physically imposing midfielders in United's history.
They are joined by Jackie Blanchflower, who is most renowned as a defender but also played the defensive midfielder role well in Busby’s system.
The defence is made up of club legends Tony Dunne and Bill Foulkes, who made over 1,000 appearances for the club between them.
The other half of the defence comprises former club captains Allenby Chilton and Johnny Carey. Long-time goalkeeper Alex Stepney features in the net.
Sir Alex Ferguson
1986 - 2013 | Games: 1,500 | Wins: 895 | Honours: 38
At number one on our list is the greatest football manager of all time, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Scotsman took over the reins of Man United in 1986 when the club was sitting second from the bottom of the league and went on to win more trophies than any other manager in football history.
The legendary Glasgow-born manager brought an astounding 38 pieces of silverware to Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and three Champions League titles
In his 27 years at the club, he transformed United into a winning machine and is almost solely responsible for the giant stature of the club in the modern day.
Ferguson completely revitalised a dying squad and introduced some of the best players the world has ever seen, such as Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The football icon is the club's longest-serving manager, with 1,500 games in charge. He also holds the highest win percentage of any Red Devils manager, winning 59.7% of his games in charge.
In his time as Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson built one of the greatest football dynasties the world has ever seen, earning him the undisputed number one spot on our list.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s best-ever Xl
In goal for Fergie’s best-ever Xl we have the legendary Danish shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel, who made 398 appearances for the club and won five titles as United's number one.
The back line consists of Irish left-back Denis Irwin, along with England legend Gary Neville at right back. In the middle of the defence are two of the greatest centre-backs the league has ever seen, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
In central midfield, we have notorious hard man and former club captain Roy Keane alongside one of the club's finest-ever midfielders, Paul Scholes. The duo made 1,198 appearances for the club, scoring 206 goals.
We were spoilt for choice when deciding the best wingers during the Scotsman's tenure, but in the end, we opted for global footballing megastar Cristiano Ronaldo on the right and the club's longest-serving and most decorated player Ryan Giggs on the left.
Upfront for the Red Devils, we have Man United and England’s all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney alongside free-scoring Dutch talisman Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who scored a ridiculous 150 goals in 2019 appearances. beating out Eric Cantona and Robin Van Persie into the Xl.
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