In the Premier League, interim managers are not uncommon. However, they are usually hired by teams on the verge of relegation and have no choice but to change managers in the middle of the season.
Sam Allardyce, for example, has a habit of arriving late and helping teams claw their way back from the brink of relegation. Most elite managers, on the other hand, prefer to join a campaign before it begins. This allows them to add to their roster, eliminate the deadwood, and implement their strategy throughout the preseason.
Di Matteo to Dalglish, these are the Premier League’s best caretaker managers.
Although they are less common than their counterparts in the bottom half of the table, a few caretaker managers have been successful at England’s top clubs. However, in most cases, short-term success leads to a permanent appointment, which does not appear to end well.
Nonetheless, here are five interim managers who have had recent success in the Premier League:
Number 5: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as Manchester United’s caretaker manager in December 2018, he was met with skepticism. After a disastrous spell as manager of Cardiff City, where he led the club to relegation, few expected Solskjaer to achieve Premier League success.
OGS, on the other hand, stunned the skeptics with a blistering start. He became the first Manchester United manager since the legendary Matt Busby to win his first six games in charge. Solskjaer was named Premier League Manager of the Month for January 2019, his first entire month as manager of The Red Devils, after earning ten points out of a possible twelve.
After a stunning comeback win over PSG in the Champions League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was named permanent manager of Manchester United. He signed the contract after winning 14 of his 19 games as interim manager, despite failing to win a trophy with the club.
Number 4: Kenny Dalglish
Kenny Dalglish, a Premier League and Liverpool legend is one of the game’s all-time greats.
From 1985 to 1991, he had a tremendously successful spell with The Reds. Dalglish, who began as an interim player-manager, famously led The Reds to their first-ever ‘double,’ winning the league title and the FA Cup. He then became a permanent member of the Liverpool squad, where he won multiple league titles and FA Cups. Dalglish was also named Manager of the Year three times.
He returned as interim manager after Liverpool fired Roy Hodgson in January 2011, almost 20 years after his first stint. Dalglish was eventually given a three-year contract, but he only stayed at Liverpool for a year. He was memorable for leading them to the 2011-12 League Cup, The Reds’ first trophy in six years. Liverpool also advanced to the FA Cup final in 2012.
Dalglish was fired at the end of the 2011-12 season after Liverpool finished eighth in the Premier League and missed out on the Champions League.
Number 3: Rafael Benitez
Blues fans never well-received Rafa Benitez’s surprise appointment as manager of Premier League leaders Chelsea due to his history in the league. However, after taking over for Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012, the former Liverpool manager had a positive, albeit strange, season in London.
Despite a hostile reception from the Chelsea fans, Benitez guided the club to a third-place finish in the Premier League and a place in the UEFA Champions League. Under Rafael Benitez, Chelsea reached the FA Cup semi-finals, lost in the FIFA Club World Cup final, and famously won the Europa League.
Benitez left at the end of the 2012-13 season, announcing his intention to leave in January. His time at Chelsea turned out to be a brief and successful caretaker spell at an elite club.
Number 2: Guus Hiddink
Guus Hiddink, one of the game’s all-time greats, had a lengthy playing career before embarking on an even longer managerial career that lasted 34 years.
Despite two successful stints as Chelsea’s interim manager, the Dutchman was never given a permanent position. He took over for the first time late in the 2008-09 season, after the Blues fired Luiz Felipe Scolari. Hiddink arrived in February and continued to serve as Russia’s national manager simultaneously.
His first stint as caretaker manager was remarkable, with Chelsea losing just one game during his four-month tenure. They eliminated Liverpool before being ousted by Barcelona on away goals in the semi-finals. The Blues finished third in the Premier League and won the FA Cup in 2009.
Hiddink returned to Stamford Bridge in December 2015, despite returning to Russia at the end of the 2008-09 season. Chelsea was in chaos then, having just fired Jose Mourinho and sitting in 16th place in the Premier League table.
Hiddink led the club to a tenth-place finish, climbing six places and setting a Premier League record for the longest unbeaten streak by a new manager (12 games). He left again at the end of the season.
Number 1: Roberto Di Matteo
Given that Chelsea has hired 15 managers in the last 15 years, it’s not surprising to see a third Blues manager on this list. What is surprising is that Roman Abramovich’s managerial merry-go-round appears to be working!
Some interim managers hope to secure a permanent position by keeping the ship afloat. Others wish to finish in the top four. On the other hand, Di Matteo earned a full-time role after winning the Champions League.
What happened next was nothing short of amazing. After playing for Chelsea from 1996 to 2002, he became caretaker manager in March 2012. The Premier League club had just fired manager Andre Villas-Boas late in the season.
Chelsea won the FA Cup in 2012 after defeating rivals Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 and defeating Liverpool in the final. After shocking Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, they won the 2012 Champions League from Bayern Munich.
Of course, things quickly deteriorated. Di Matteo was fired after Chelsea was eliminated from the Champions League group round. But, as far as interim spells go, it was the stuff of dreams.