Manchester City won the Champions League in the 2022-23 season for the first time in club history, cementing Pep Guardiola’s legacy as one of the greatest managers of all time. But who are the other City greats that have made undeniable contributions to the club since its inception in the late 1800s? 

Let’s take a look at the top 10 Manchester City managers, their accomplishments and accolades, as well as the impact they had on the direction of City's future. Current Man City manager Guardiola has shaped one of the best teams in the history of the game, while famous managers such as Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini have also played key roles in City’s journey to the very top. 

Who is the current Manchester City manager? 

Pep Guardiola, a Spaniard, took over as the Manchester City manager in 2016 after successful stints at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. City have been a consistent contender in all competitions under his management, as Pep has climbed the ranks to become the most successful manager in Man City history.

Manchester City Managers' history

The Manchester City manager position has piqued the interest of some of world soccer’s best managers. Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini, and Pep Guardiola have all had success and claimed trophies in their roles during the years since Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi group gained ownership of the club in 2008.

In the club's earlier years, managers such as Peter Hodge in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as Sam Cowan in the 1940s, had success of their own. Mel Machin was a key influence in the 1980s.

The club’s history has certainly brightened in recent years, thanks to the financial support of the Abu Dhabi group. That funding has enabled Man City to attract a higher pedigree of coaches, too.

Famous Man City Managers

Pep Guardiola was the most famous manager who ever came to Manchester City. When he took the job, he was already considered one of the best in the world, having had the tactical genius to win two Champions League titles at Barcelona as well as various domestic victories in both Spain and Germany.

Several England legends have also been Man City managers, including Kevin Keegan who helped the club to win what was then known as Division One.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Manchester City Managers of all time

  1. Mark Hughes

Years with Man City: 2008 to 2009
Man City Record: 36 wins, 15 ties, 26 losses (.467 winning percentage) 

Mark Hughes was in charge at City between 2008 and 2009, and is responsible for bringing in Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta, who would both go on to become cornerstones of City’s defense.

The club had high hopes at the time, and it was spending some money in the transfer window, but Hughes couldn’t improve on Sven-Goran Eriksson’s ninth-place finish from the previous year. City finished 10th with a strong home record, but the club had faltered on the road. 

Hughes was relieved of his duties in 2009, at which point City brought in Italian manager Roberto Mancini.

  1. Peter Hodge

Years with Man City: 1926 to 1932
Man City Record:
122 wins, 59 ties, 80 losses (.467 winning percentage)
Awards: Second Division Title (1928)

Peter Hodge took over as the club’s manager one game before the end of the 1926 season, which ended with City being relegated from the First Division.

The following season, Hodge led the club to a successful campaign, but they would need a hefty win on the final day to gain immediate promotion back to the top flight. They beat Bradford 8-0, which was one goal short of the required margin – forcing them to remain in the Second Division for the 1928 season. 

On his second attempt, Hodge’s team was promoted as Division Two champions. City fans had fallen in love with the team again, and that was largely due to the flair and style it displayed at the time. Hodge created a squad that quickly became one of the country’s most popular, and it climbed all the way to third place in Division One by the end of the 1929-30 season. 

  1. Kevin Keegan 

Years with Man City: 2001 to 2005
Man City Record:
77 wins, 39 ties, 60 losses (.437 winning percentage)
Awards: First Division Title (2002)

Kevin Keegan took over as Manchester City’s coach in 2001 and guided the team back into the Premier League during his first season in charge after they had been relegated in the previous year. Keegan’s 2001-02 team was a high-scoring outfit with 108 goals. Upon promotion, Keegan built a squad that could hold its own at the top level.

He brought in players such as striker Nicolas Anelka, veteran goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, and midfielder Marc Vivien Foe, who were all crucial to City’s ability to maintain Premier League status in the 2002-03 season.

City hadn’t beaten rival Manchester United since 1989, but in that first Premier League season under Keegan, they won one game and drew the other, claiming four points from the red side of Manchester. In their return to Premier League soccer, City finished ninth and qualified for the UEFA Cup via the UEFA fair play rankings.

Keegan kept Manchester City up the following season despite a less successful campaign and moved on from the club in 2005 after expressing a desire to retire from managing.

  1. Wilf Wild

Years with Man City: 1932 to 1946
Man City Record:
158 wins, 71 ties, 123 losses (.449 winning percentage)
Awards: First Division Title (1937), FA Cup (1934), Charity Shield (1937)

Wilf Wild’s 14 years as Man City’s head coach make him the longest-serving manager in club history. It was a career marked by some extreme highs, including the club’s first-ever First Division title in 1937 and the FA Cup championship in 1934.

 Wild’s tactics involved an attacking style of soccer that allowed the Manchester City players to get forward and score plenty of goals. While it helped them to claim the title in 1937, they struggled the following year and were relegated, marking the only time in the English top division history when the defending champion was relegated the following year. 

After stepping down following World War II, Wild served as club secretary until his death in 1950.

  1. Tom Maley 

Years with Man City: 1902 to 1906
Man City Record:
89 wins, 22 ties, 39 losses (.593 winning percentage)
Awards: Second Division Title (1903), FA Cup (1904)

During Manchester City’s early years, Tom Maley was a trailblazer for the club as a result of the Scottish style of passing he brought to Man City’s game. Maley was a Scottish man who had played his entire career in Scotland, where he had learned the ins and outs of the game.

Maley’s tactics helped establish Manchester City as a force in English soccer, and he would guide the club to its first FA Cup win in 1904.

Under Maley’s guidance, Manchester City won the Second Division title and was promoted into the First Division. He was unfortunately involved in the 1905 bribery scandal that led to his banishment from club soccer in England. 

  1. Joe Mercer

Years with Man City: 1965 to 1971
Man City Record:
149 wins, 94 ties, 97 losses (.438 winning percentage)
Awards: First Division Title (1968), Second Division Title (1966), FA Cup (1969), League Cup (1970), Cup Winners Cup (1970), Charity Shield (1968)

In Joe Mercer's first season in charge of City, the club won the Second Division title and was promoted back into Division One. Remarkably, just two seasons later, Mercer led them to the Division One title, too, having gone from a second-flight team to a top-flight contender in a stunning turnaround.

He won his fair share of trophies as one of Manchester City’s most successful managers before they were taken over in the 2000s. Mercer claimed the FA Cup in 1969 and the League Cup in 1970, as well as the Cup Winners Cup and Charity Shields.

Unfortunately for Mercer, an ownership change saw him lose his job and, according to reports, he only learned he had been replaced after the team’s new owners literally removed his parking space.

  1. Roberto Mancini

Years with Man City: 2009 to 2013
Man City Record: 113 wins, 38 ties, 40 losses (.592 winning percentage)
Awards: Premier League Title (2012), FA Cup (2011), Community Shield (2012)

Roberto Mancini was the man who transformed Manchester City after the club was sold in the late 2000s. He was appointed after the departure of Mark Hughes and immediately began to turn the club around with tactics he had applied in his previous position at Inter Milan. 

During his first summer in charge, Mancini brought in David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Alexsandar Kolarov, all of whom became staples of the starting eleven for years to come. City earned Champions League football qualification in Mancini’s first season in charge, and were suddenly a force to be reckoned with.

In 2012, Mancini helped City win the Premier League title in stunning fashion, stealing the title from Manchester United on a last-second goal by Sergio Aguero against Queens Park Rangers. Mancini was a hero in the City of Manchester for what he was able to achieve with the club, spending its transfer money in an effective way to build a championship roster.

He claimed an FA Cup and Community Shield while in charge, but was relieved of his duties to pave the way for Manuel Pellegrini to take over.

  1. Sam Cowan

Years with Man City: 1946 to 1947
Man City Record:
20 wins, 6 ties, 4 losses (.667 winning percentage)
Awards: Second Division Title (1947)

Sam Cowan took over as Manchester City’s manager in 1946, having been a club captain and legend in the 1930s. City supporters were thrilled to see him take over as manager, and he had an immediate impact.

Manchester City had a 19-game unbeaten streak on their way to the 1947 Second Division title, but Cowan resigned that summer due to struggles with the commute from his home in Brighton. He only managed for 30 games, but Cowan has one of the strongest winning percentages of any manager in club history. 

  1. Manuel Pellegrini

Years with Man City: 2013 to 2016
Man City Record:
100 wins, 28 ties, 39 losses (.599 winning percentage)
Awards: Premier League Title (2014), League Cup Championship (2014, 2016)

Manuel Pellegrini brought a fresh culture to Manchester City after the club had been through a few months of struggle with Roberto Mancini. Pellegrini had been in charge at Malaga, where the Chilean had helped a mediocre Spanish team reach the later stages of Champions League soccer.

Upon taking over at City, Pellegrini established an English soccer goal-scoring prowess unrivaled by any other team in the league. City scored 151 goals in all competitions in 2013-14, breaking the Manchester United “Busby Babes” record that had stood since the 1957-58 season.

Pellegrini won the Premier League title with the club in his first season at the helm, which made him the first non-European manager ever to win the English Premier League. 

When he left the club, Pellegrini had managed to achieve the fifth-highest winning percentage in Premier League history, having won 100 games while in charge.

  1. Pep Guardiola

Years with Man City: 2016 to Present
Man City Record:
300 wins, 55 ties, 58 losses (.726 winning percentage)

Awards: Premier League Title (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023), FA Cup Championship (2019, 2023), League Cup Championship (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), Community Shield (2018, 2019), UEFA Champions League Title (2023)

Pep Guardiola is one of the most successful club managers in Premier League history, let alone the history of Manchester City. His stunning .726 winning percentage is the best all-time among Premier League managers.

When he came to Manchester in 2016, Guardiola was already one of the most well-respected managers and tacticians in soccer, having coached Barcelona during the prime era of Lionel Messi and Co. He also had several domestic successes with Bayern Munich.

At City, Guardiola has been unstoppable, and most recently collected the crown jewel of trophies for the club. Five Premier League trophies is remarkable, as only Sir Alex Ferguson has more. Guardiola won his first title in the 2017-18 season, as Man City became the first team ever to surpass 100 points in a Premier League season. He has now won five Premier League titles in six seasons in charge.

Of course, he has some of the best players in the world at his disposal, but he is a master at getting the most out of his players. Pep's mastery was profound in English soccer, but many questioned whether he could claim the Champions League with the club, something he had done twice at Barcelona. In 2023, he responded to that challenge by defeating Inter Milan in the Champions League final to cement his legacy as one of the greatest managers in English soccer history.

Having dominated the English top flight for several years now, Pep leads the club in all-time victories by a manager as well as trophies claimed. He is without a doubt the greatest manager in Man City history. 

Parameters for rankings

These all-time great Man City managers have been ranked based on success with the club in terms of winning percentages and trophies collected. Those who helped Man City fight back into the top flight also scored points in these rankings. Other factors under consideration included success in the Premier League, English cups, and Champions League.

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