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5 Most Successful Inexperienced Football Managers

With Manchester United legend Michael Carrick being appointed as the new head coach for struggling Championship club Middlesbrough, it marks his first full time managerial position except for managing Man United on an interim basis for 3 games.

With this in mind, the team at have looked back at some of the most successful inexperienced football managers that got a top-tier job with only lower league experience, or very little first team management experience.

Steven Gerrard
Ex-Liverpool player Steven Gerrard began his senior managerial career with Scottish Premiership club Rangers back in 2018. Before Gerrard’s appointment, his only previous managerial experience was with the Liverpool Youth Under 18’s team. He is one the good examples of successful inexperienced football managers.

As Gerrard took charge of Rangers, the team began to improve drastically, culminating in the 2020-2021 season, when Rangers were unbeaten for the entire season and won their first Scottish Premiership title in ten years. Gerrard has recently been sacked after a stint managing Premier League club Aston Villa.

Pep Guardiola

The former Spanish international, best known for his many years at Barcelona, took his first managerial role with the Barcelona B reserve team in 2007. That was his only experience when he later took charge of the Barcelona first team in 2008, the reason for making the list of successful inexperienced football mangers.

In his first year at Barcelona, he led them to win the treble, which includes La Liga, the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League. After four successful years at Barcelona, he moved to Bayern Munich and led them to win the Bundesliga during his three seasons in charge. Since 2016, he has successfully managed Manchester City to four league titles, an FA cup, and their first Champions League final (although they still haven’t won it). He is considered one of the greatest managers of all time.

Zinedine Zidane

The French player best known for a playing career with Juventus, Real Madrid and the French national team, Zidane’s managerial career began with assistant roles at Real Madrid, before which he served as manager of Los Blancos reserve team. His journey as one of the successful inexperience football managers followed.

Zidane became the manager of Real Madrid’s first team in January 2016 after the sacking of then manager Rafael Benitez. In a matter of months, Zidane led the team to the Champions League final where they won 5-3 on penalties against local rivals Atletico Madrid.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo, who became a Chelsea legend during his playing career, began his managerial career in 2008 with Milton Keynes Dons. In his first season he got them to 3rd place in League One, only just missing out on promotion in the play-off semi-final.

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Di Matteo only stayed with MK Dons for the one season, afterwards moving up to Championship side West Bromwich Albion. In his first season in charge, the club finished 2nd place in the Championship, just behind Newcastle United, securing automatic promotion to the Premier League.

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His streak of luck didn’t end there however, as he later became the interim manager of Chelsea in March 2012. By May, he had led Chelsea to win both the Champions League and the FA Cup. He obviously one of the successful inexperienced football managers.

Frank de Boer

De Boer’s playing career is best known for his long tenure at Ajax, five years at Barcelona and his many caps for the Netherlands national team. His managerial career began as a coach for the Ajax youth team, and then a short time as assistant manager for the Netherlands national team.

After his time with Netherlands, he was appointed manager of Ajax’s main team in 2010, and he came away as one the successful inexperienced football managers to be remembered. De Boer then went on to help Ajax become champions of the Eredivisie for the 2010-11 season. By 2014, De Boer won his fourth successive Eredivisie title with Ajax, the first manager ever to achieve this in the Dutch league.