From Di Matteo to Zagallo – five of the best caretaker managers


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revolution at Manchester United is firmly underway. The Norwegian, and ex-United hitman, has led his side to victory in 11 of the 13 games he has presided over since replacing the skulking figure of Jose Mourinho. The mood around Old Trafford under the Portuguese appeared choking, ridding supporters of the emotions that used to make match days at the Theatre of Dreams so pulsating and unmissable.

Under his successor, the swashbuckling attacking that was the hallmark of so many of Sir Alex Ferguson’s trophy-laden reign has returned and the Red Devils’ surge back into the European spots is a testament to Solskjaer’s work so far.

But who else has taken over a club as a caretaker manager and forever etched their spot in the history books? Let’s take a look at five of the greatest examples.

Roberto di Matteo – Chelsea

Former Chelsea midfielder Roberto di Matteo made his return to Stamford Bridge in early 2012. His predecessor, Andre Villas Boas, had been arguably harshly dismissed by club owner Roman Abramovich – with the Blues just three points away from fourth spot and still in two cup competitions.

However, with Villas Boas’ dismissal came a golden chance for his assistant to pave the way to glory for Chelsea. Di Matteo’s side went on to lift the FA Cup at the end of the season, beating Liverpool 2-1 in the final, before also claiming football’s holy grail: the Champions League.

Barcelona were dispatched in the semi-finals courtesy of Fernando Torres’ last-gasp winner in the bowels of the Camp Nou. In the final, Bayern Munich found Chelsea’s newfound swagger irresistible, with the German outfit defeated in a dramatic penalty shootout. Didier Drogba bagged the winning spot kick, and Di Matteo’s hiring was firmly justified.

Guus Hiddink – Chelsea

Another manager who have stepped in to the void at Chelsea and led their side to silverware was Hiddink. The Dutchman has enjoyed two separate spells at Stamford Bridge, with both ending in various forms of success. His first tenure came in 2009 after Luiz Felipe Scolari’s sacking in February.

Under Hiddink, Chelsea’s fortunes would take a dramatic turnaround – the Blues eventually finished in third position, lifted the FA Cup and narrowly missed out in the Champions League semi-finals against Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho’s implosion in 2015 led to Chelsea once again calling for Hiddink. The veteran manager steered the London club away from any danger of relegation, before securing a much more comfortable mid-table finish.

Kenny Dalglish – Liverpool

Roy Hodgson’s spell in charge of Liverpool will forever be remembered for its supremely jarring, otherworldly feel. To this day it still doesn’t quite feel like reality, as if it were just a bizarre fever dream. Because of this, it came as no surprise when the ex-England boss was shown the exit door. His replacement was club legend Kenny Dalglish, who had been haunting behind the scenes in a role at academy level.

It may have been the Scot’s first managerial role in 13 years, but Dalglish saved Liverpool’s campaign. Under Hodgson it had threatened to derail in 12th place, whereas under his successor the Reds ended the year in a much more respectable sixth.

The highlight of that season was Liverpool’s 3-1 triumph over arch rivals Manchester United, when Dirk Kuyt netted a hat-trick in a heated clash at Anfield.

Mario Zagallo – Brazil

Brazil’s team in 1970 possessed footballing superstars Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto and, of course, Pele. The task of managing this trio proved too much for manager Joao Saldanha, who was promptly replaced by Mario Zagallo. Under the Brazilian’s leadership, the the Selecao emerged victorious at the 1970 World Cup, boasting a back to basics 4-4-2 formation.

Zagallo was the first person to win the World Cup as both a player and manager – having also conquered the tournament in both 1958 and 1962.

Tony Barton – Aston Villa

Aston Villa and the title ‘champions of Europe’ is a pairing likely to never be paired together again, judging by the club’s fortunes in recent years. But in 1982, the Villans reigned as kings of the continent after a surprise victory over German giants Bayern Munich in the European Cup final.

Under Barton, the Midlands club finished 11th in the league and, because of their unlikely European triumph, secured their spot in the following season’s competition too. The next year, Villa would also beat Barcelona in the European Super Cup final.


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