Cookies on

The Premier League website employs cookies to improve your user experience. We have updated our cookie policy to reflect changes in the law on cookies and tracking technologies used on websites. If you continue on this website, you will be providing your consent to our use of cookies. Find out more.

Monday 06 January 2014

Solskjaer latest disciple of Ferguson's management

We look at the Barclays Premier League managers who played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd

  • Bruce and Robson lift Ferguson's first Barclays Premier League trophy in 1994

  • The pair bring out their former boss's 13th Barclays Premier League trophy in 2013

  • Former team-mates Hughes and Keane meet ahead of Sunderland v Man City in August 2008

  • Ince comes up against Wigan manager Bruce during his brief spell as Blackburn boss in 2008

  • Solskjaer celebrates helping Ferguson clinch the treble in May 1999

Given that Sir Alex Ferguson was the most successful manager in the history of the Barclays Premier League, it is perhaps no surprise that the sorceror tutored a number of ambitious apprentices with designs on following the master.

In the way that Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish went on to forge managerial careers in the top flight of English football management after serving under Bob Paisley at Liverpool, so Ferguson's influence has rubbed off some of his former proteges.

Indeed, the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager of Cardiff City last week has taken to six the individuals who have made the leap from playing in the Barclays Premier League for Sir Alex's Red Devils to managing a club in the same competition.

Here we look at the records of the six students of Ferguson who have graduated to the top level of management.

Bryan Robson

Bryan Robson was the first player to follow in Ferguson's footsteps. An inspirational captain at United, the former England skipper, who became the first player, along with Steve Bruce, to lift the Barclays Premier League trophy in the competition's inaugural year, moved to Middlesbrough after helping United win a second title, where he accepted the role as player manager.

In his first season in charge he led Boro to promotion to the Barclays Premier League, where they remained for two seasons, before suffering relegation at the end of an eventful 1996/97 campaign that also took in two cup finals. Under Robson, the club bounced straight back from the second tier, however, and reached another League Cup final.

He left the Riverside Stadium in 2001 and, after a short stint in charge at Bradford City, returned to the Barclays Premier League with West Bromwich Albion in November 2004. It was a difficult assignment but Robson, who had started his playing career at The Hawthorns, masterminded "The Great Escape", helping the Baggies become the first Barclays Premier League club to avoid relegation after being bottom of the table on Christmas Day. Even Ferguson would have struggled to pull off that feat.

Steve Bruce

After winning three Barclays Premier League titles and spending nine successful years as a dependable defender for United, Bruce embarked on a career in management having ended his playing days at Birmingham City and Sheffield United. He cut his managerial teeth with spells in the Championship at the Blades, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace before guiding Birmingham to the Barclays Premier League via the play-offs. Under Bruce the Blues remained in the top flight until suffering relegation in 2006 but he ensured they confirmed a swift return.

Bruce returned to Wigan in November 2007 and again achieved survival in the Barclays Premier League relegation battle with a match to spare. An 11th-place finish soon followed, prompting a move to Sunderland. The Black Cats finished 13th in his first season at the Stadium of Light but a poor start to the subsequent campaign led to his exit. Bruce bounced back, however, accepting the managerial position at Hull City in June 2012 and guiding them to automatic promotion to the Barclays Premier League in his first season in charge. Hull currently lie 10th in the table.

Roy Keane

A combative and formidable leader of men, Keane enjoyed a glittering career at Old Trafford, becoming captain of the side he joined from Nottingham Forest in 1993 and winning numerous honours, including seven Barclays Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the 1999 UEFA Champions League. After closing out his playing days at Celtic in 2006 he took his first role in management at Sunderland and proved an instant success, guiding the Black Cats from the relegation zone to promotion to the Barclays Premier League as champions in his first season at the helm.

The next season Sunderland survived relegation with two matches to spare, although the second season in the Barclays Premier League proved more trying. Despite a first home victory over Newcastle United for 28 years, inconsistent results brought about Keane's decision to step down in December 2008. He has since managed in the Championship at Ipswich Town and is a television pundit as well as assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland national team.

Mark Hughes

Another fierce competitor when leading the forward line for Ferguson during seven seasons in his second spell at Old Trafford, Hughes has spent the best part of the last decade managing in the Barclays Premier League. As a striker, the 1988/89 PFA Player of the Year won three Barclays Premier League titles and two of his three FA Cup winners' medals as a United player with Ferguson, and also scored the winning goal in the UEFA Cup-Winners' Cup final.

Like Keane, Hughes acquired a reputation as a fearless warrior, and the man who coined the phrase, "the hairdryer" to describe the experience of being told off by Ferguson. He went on to play for Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and Blackburn Rovers before becoming manager of Wales.

He enjoyed five productive years with Wales, guiding them to within a whisker of qualifying for UEFA Euro 2004 as they beat Italy at home in a group qualifier, only to lose out to Russia in the play-offs. Blackburn gave him his first chance of Barclays Premier League club management and Hughes helped them avoid relegation in his first season in charge, before securing a sixth-place finish the next campaign, with the help of two victories over Ferguson's Manchester United team. The next season, Rovers finished seventh in the top flight and reached their third FA Cup semi-final under the Welshman.

managerial record of ferguson & his Disciples
  BPL matches
Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points Win%
Ferguson 810 528 168 114 1627
703 1752 65
Robson 232 61 71 100 255 340 254 26
Bruce 336 98 96 142 353 436 390 29
Keane 53 15 9 29 49 83 54 28
Hughes 290 102 81 107 373 380 387 35
Ince 17 3 4 10 17 34 13 18
Solskjaer - - - - - - - -

A move to Manchester City followed in June 2008 three months before the club was taken over by the Abu Dhabi United investment group who made a generous transfer budget available for Hughes to build a side to challenge Ferguson for the title. After finishing 10th in Hughes' first season at the helm, more funds were released, and to complement the arrivals of Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Robinho the previous summer, Hughes added Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez to his squad. In December, however, Hughes was relieved of his duties with City lying sixth.

In July 2010 Hughes took over at Fulham and guided the Cottagers to seventh in his only season in charge, meaning Fulham, like Blackburn and City before them, had qualified for the UEFA Europa League. The Welshman took over at Queens Park Rangers in January 2012 and helped the Londoners avoid relegation in the final match of the campaign despite a last-gasp defeat at Man City that secured the title for his former side. QPR's struggles continued, however, and Hughes left Loftus Road in November.

Hughes has since returned to the Barclays Premier League, taking over at Stoke City in the summer, where he is attempting to introduce a more expansive brand of football.

Paul Ince

Ince was another midfield enforcer whose ball-winning skills and dynamism helped United win two Barclays Premier League titles. Like Keane, a fall-out with Ferguson precipitated his departure after six seasons at Old Trafford, but the 46-year-old is another former player determined to make it in management.

Ince had encouraging early spells in charge at Macclesfield Town and Milton Keynes Dons, whom he took up to Division One, before getting his first chance to manage in the Barclays Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, where he became the first black British manager in England's top division.

However, after winning three matches in 17 he left Ewood Park 177 days after his appointment. Another spell at MK Dons and a stint at Notts County preceded a spell at Blackpool that began in February 2013. Ince is attempting to mastermind a return to the top flight for the Seasiders, who lie in 12th place in the second tier.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer

Most famous for scoring the dramatic, late winning goal that clinched Ferguson's first UEFA Champions League triumph, Solskjaer was a goal poacher with a knack of being in the right place at the right time. The "baby-faced assassin" spent most of his playing career at Old Trafford, where he spent 12 years, won six Barclays Premier League titles and lifted two FA Cups.

After hanging up his boots Solskjaer took over as manager of Manchester United's reserve team in 2008 serving a two-year apprenticeship while taking his coaching badges and gleaning information  from Ferguson. Although he turned down an offer to manage the Norwegian national team, citing a  lack of experience, Solskjaer returned to his former club Molde, in November 2010.

Solskjaer guided the club to their first Norwegian Premier Division title in 100 years in his first season and followed that up with a second championship crown the next campaign. Last year Solskjaer added a Norwegian Cup to his CV, prompting Cardiff City to come calling this month. In his first match in charge Solskjaer guided the Bluebirds to an FA Cup third-round victory over Newcastle United.

Managerial legacy

Ferguson may have retired in the summer but in many respects his legacy lives on, with numerous former charges and colleagues forging paths in management. Huddersfield Town manager Mark Robins is another ex-United player seeking to join the list above, former defender Laurent Blanc has gone on to coach the French national team and Paris Saint-Germain and Nicky Butt is coaching United’s Under-21s.

Trusted right-hand men such as Brian Kidd and Rene Meulensteen have also gone on to manage in the top flight, at Blackburn Rovers and Fulham respectively. Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville have been taken on as part of David Moyes' coaching staff and there is another former United player with perhaps more justification than most for being called a chip off the old block, his son, Darren Ferguson, who is Peterborough United's manager.

Which of the following do you think will go on to manage in the Barclays Premier League: Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt or Paul Scholes? Go to our homepage poll to post your answers.

Share this page

Key Points

  • Ole Gunnar Solskajer is sixth man to have played under Sir Alex Ferguson in Barclays Premier League and then managed a club in the competition
  • We compare and contrast Sir Alex with his six former proteges
  • Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Solskjaer profiled