The art of football: The managers and tactics that have reshaped the game

The 2023-24 European season reached its conclusion when Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, showcasing a campaign defined by tactical acumen. Indeed, a variety of sides won titles against the Livescore football betting odds, from Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen winning the Bundesliga, to Erik ten Hag’s surprising triumph in the FA Cup over Manchester City.  

Carlo Ancelotti’s win with Madrid ensured he became the most decorated manager in Champions League history, winning the elusive competition for the seventh time and joining a list of the all-time great coaches.

Football isn’t just about the players on the pitch. Equally, the managers on the sideline go a long way in influencing how results pan out. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the managers who orchestrate the beautiful game.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure at Manchester United is nothing short of legendary. His ability to adapt and evolve over decades set him apart. The Scot left Old Trafford in 2013, leaving the Red Devils with 20 league titles to surpass Liverpool’s record.

Ferguson was known for nurturing young talents like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, known as the class of ‘92 alongside the Neville brothers and David Beckham. However, he was also able to build dominant teams with world-class players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, often being complemented for his brilliant man-management.

Arrigo Sacchi

Arrigo Sacchi, despite lacking a prestigious playing career, transformed Italian football. His AC Milan side in the late 1980s introduced a high-pressing, fast-paced game that left opponents gasping for breath.

Sacchi’s tactical innovations emphasised teamwork, positioning, and relentless pressing—a blueprint for success.

The best of these seasons to showcase Milan’s defensive solidity was 1993-94 Serie A. Milan only scored 36 goals all year, but by keeping clean sheets with centre-backs like Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, and Alessandro Costacurta, they became kings of Italy as well as wider Europe, winning the Champions League after beating Barcelona.

Bob Paisley

The most successful English manager of all time, Bob Paisley was a quiet genius who won three European Cups in his time as Liverpool boss, working alongside the famous Boot Room in a dominant era at Anfield.

Paisley took over from Bill Shankly in 1974, initially reluctant to carry on the mantle from the great Scot. But after winning in Europe, as well as six league titles, he developed an attacking system that utilised stars like Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola’s philosophy of possession-based football has influenced the global approach to the game. Tiki-taka defined a generation, as demonstrated by the Spanish national team dominance between 2008-2012, winning consecutive Euros and the 2010 World Cup.

Whether at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, or Manchester City, Guardiola’s teams play with intricate passing, positional play, and a relentless pursuit of control. His tactics have reshaped modern football, with his understudies Mikel Arteta, Vincent Kompany, and Enzo Maresca all earning top jobs at Arsenal, Bayern, and Chelsea respectively.

Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa, the enigmatic Argentine, is a true football philosopher. His high-intensity pressing, man-marking, and attacking style have inspired a generation of coaches. Bielsa’s influence extends beyond the clubs he manages. You only need to walk round the corner from Elland Road in Leeds and you’ll see plenty of artwork and murals dedicated to his time in Yorkshire. Bielsa is a beacon for those who seek to play the game with passion and purpose.