When Liverpool's Bill Shankly Called Manchester United The Best

Arguments were sparked in households across the country this Christmas as Sky Sports revealed their 10 greatest football managers… Tune into Sky Sports 1 tonight and catch the last three episodes.
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As researcher on a 10-part series called Football’s Greatest Managers I’ve been extremely fortunate to be have read, watched and heard the thoughts of some of the game’s greats. Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and ex-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho both gave exclusive interviews, as did Fabio Capello, Giovanni Trapattoni and many of the former players they coached. Alas whilst Rinus Michels, Bob Paisley and Liverpool's Bill Shankly are no longer with us, the quotes hand picked from the archive go some way to showing just what made the men so special. There will no doubt be a few tales and stories along the way, but here’s a sneak preview into what the men were like before they were famous...

Bill Shankly

The Liverpool legend who’s spirit lives on to this day, initially had feelings for their fierce rivals up the M62 as John Keith remembers...

“Liverpool went there one day and were ripped apart by his Huddersfield team, Huddersfield won 5 - 0 and the following year when Liverpool went back there, it was then that they offered Shankly the job. T.V. Williams the chairman of Liverpool said: "Bill, how would you like to be manager of the best team in the country?" And Shanks said: "Why? Has Matt Busby packed up?"

Jose Mourinho

Loved at Chelsea, Inter and now Madrid, the ‘Special One’s’ career had relatively humble beginnings whilst working under Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, but he was certainly more than just an interpreter...

“I was an interpreter?  Why?  Because I could speak English and nobody else could do it, that’s the reality but to call someone an interpreter that was preparing matches, analysing, coaching on the pitch – to call him an interpreter, I think from the beginning it’s the wrong words but not a problem for me.”

Bob Paisley

Paisley, like Mourinho, started elsewhere in the back room staff, earning a reputation as an accomplished physio. Liverpool historian John Keith fondly recalls a lovely story...

“One Sunday morning, Bob’s in the bootroom and the steward knocks at the door and says: 'Mr Paisley, there’s a lady in reception with a dog.' So he goes down, and the woman has a greyhound. “Mr Paisley?” “Aye,” She said: “Can you have a look at my dog, he's got a sore paw.” He said: “I don't do dogs!”

Fabio Capello

The current England manager also started off behind the scenes, becoming an Executive at AC Milan working across all the club’s sports...

“I managed for (Milan) in baseball, ice hockey, volleyball and rugby. And I think that helped me for the job I came back to after four years when Berlusconi called me and asked me if I was available to return to the world of football and major competitions. I said yes”

The chairman of Liverpool said: "Bill, how would you like to be manager of the best team in the country?" And Shanks said: "Why? Has Matt Busby packed up?"

Ottmar Hitzfeld

The man who would win two European Cups with two different German clubs could so easily have missed out on football glory for a career in education...

“I wanted to become a teacher, and was told I had the necessary qualifications, but since I had not taught for 12 years I had to take another exam. I was very annoyed and disappointed at this. I said, “I will not take another exam – I will try to be successful as a manager first,” and I gave myself a time span of 5 years”

Arrigo Sacchi

The Italian, who had hadn’t played the game professionally, was working wonders at Parma, then in the third tier of Italian football. The team’s performances against AC Milan in the cup attracted the attention of a certain Silvio Berlusconi...

“The first match, the Coppa Italia, at Milan, we went there with our squad full of kids, that had just gone from Serie C to Serie B, and we won 1-0. Berlusconi came over and said to me: “I will follow you carefully”. We got to the quarter finals, and again we got Milan. We returned to Milan in February, and we won 1-0. The Sporting Director of Milan rang me and he said: “The Doctor [Silvio Berlusconi] wants to speak to you.”

Giovanni Trapattoni

Unlike Sacchi, Trap played at the highest level for club and country and as his career drew to a close, he already had one eye on what to do next...

“I loved seeing young players play. When I finished training for the day, I always remained on the pitch to watch the younger players and I’d spot some of their mistakes or bad habits. And I just loved telling them how to correct those mistakes.”

Mario Zagallo

The man who would go onto be part of four successful World Cup campaign as player, manager and coach, was instrumental in a change of tactics even as a player, as journalist Roberto Assaf remembers...

“Zagallo was the first ever attacking player to drop back and make up a 4-3-3 formation. He completed the midfield as the third man. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that he was the missing link in this tactical formation. And the fact that Brazil became world champions made that formation become the norm”

Rinus Michels

The godfather of ‘Total Football’ soon had to adopt a more serious persona once he stepped into the managerial hot seat...

“I was known as a joker, and people always assumed I would stay the same person I was. I quickly realised that if I were to bring in a regime based on discipline then there would be sufficient respect.”

Sir Alex Ferguson

The Manchester United icon and one of the game’s most successful managers, had the deep rooted determination and passion even in his early days at Aberdeen...

“I got all the ground staff in, all the apprentices, all the kids, myself all the staff, even our chairman, old Dick, were out there at 6 in the morning clearing the snow off the pitch. And we got the game on, and we won one-nil and we didn’t lose a game until the end of the season after that, I think we went 15/16 games without defeat.”

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