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The Premier League’s Most Fiery Managerial Feuds

After Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel and Tottenham's Antonio Conte got into an epic face-off following the two clubs' controversial draw, we look at some of of the most memorable managerial rivalries from the Premier League era.

By Andrew Woodin
Premier League Thomas Tuchel

The Premier League match between London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Sunday delivered some exceptional goals from both squads, but the eye-popping main event took place off the pitch between Blues manager Thomas Tuchel and Spurs manager Antonio Conte.

In the 67th minute with Chelsea up 1-0, Chelsea’s Kai Havertz stole the ball from Tottenham midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, and with the Blues attacking, Bentancur slid into the German attacker with a hard tackle that Tuchel clearly felt should have been whistled for a foul. Then, with tensions simmering into a tepid boil as the play shifted the other way, Ben Davis ripped a one-timer for the equalizer, unleashing the managers’ tempers on the sideline. Refs and teammates had to intervene as both animated managers pushed, screamed and gesticulated with as much gusto as two men either in or near their 50’s could.

While he didn’t go full, ear-biting-Tyson, Tuchel’s apparent rage approached an apex as he danced maniacally after Reece James netted a goal in the 76th minute to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead. Chelsea's lead wouldn't last, however. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Spurs striker Harry Kane scored off a corner kick, knotting the contest at 2-2 at rescuing a point for Tottenham. But the goal wasn't without controversy. On another corner directly preceding Kane's pivotal header, video replays appeared to show Tottenham's Cristian Romero pull the hair of Chelsea defender Marc Cucurella, which, if it had been whistled, would have resulted in a Chelsea free kick and negated Spurs' next corner (and thus no Kane goal). That only further incensed Tuchel and at the final whistle, he and Conte once again got into a heated confrontation, with benches clearing to break up the “scrap” (and earning both managers a red card). Considering the dust up, at times, resembled 2016’s “Battle at the Bridge” when the Blues dashed Tottenham’s title hopes, we dove into the history books to examine the Premier League’s top, heated managerial feuds. Ding-ding -- let’s get it on!

Alan Pardew vs. Manuel Pellegrini

Premier League Coach2

These two have had some extremely choice words for one another over the years, but none reached the level of Pardew’s in 2014 while he was at Newcastle. After the refs overturned a goal for the Toon squad, the English manager was caught on a hot mic on live television, calling Pellegrini a truly degrading name that wouldn’t even make the cut of a raunchy Judd Apatow comedy. Their feud crescendoed in 2015 when Pardew, then manager of Crystal Palace, ran down the sideline into Pellegrini’s technical area to protest a call. The Chilean manager then grabbed the Englishman roughly, launching the two into a heated confrontation that had to be physically broken up.

Alex Ferguson vs. Arsene Wenger

Having battled one another nearly 50 times over the 17-year span they managed in the EPL, Ferguson and Wenger’s feud is one of the most iconic in Premier League history. One of their documented tussles materialized after United trounced Arsenal to end the Gunners’ epic 49-game win streak in 2004. As the tale goes, the “Pizzagate Game” or the “Battle of the Buffet” as people familiar with the incident call it. started after disgruntled Arsenal players and staff confronted The Red Devils in the tunnel at Old Trafford after the game. Messieurs Ferguson and Wenger launched into a charged shouting match, and out of nowhere, a slice of pizza nailed Fergie square in the dome. Sir Alex still takes umbrage at the incident, fanning the flames of the two clubs’ historic rivalry.

Rafa Benitez vs. Jose Mourinho

Premier League Coach

Their war of words ignited in 2005 after Luis Garcia’s "Ghost Goal" in the Champions League semi-final that has enraged Mourinho ever since. With their sizzling disdain for one another public, their feud devolved further into madness after Rafa’s wife got involved, claiming that Benitez always had to “tidy up [Mouinho’s] messes” in reference to the three times Benitez took jobs previously held by Mourinho. Naturally, this wouldn’t sit well with the Portuguese manager, and he fired back, launching some surly insults directly at Benitez’s wife. “The lady is confused. …  I think the lady needs to occupy her time and if she takes care of her husband's diet she will have less time to speak about me.”


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Kenny Dalglish vs. Alex Ferguson

Making his way onto our list for the second time, Sir Alex ignited his feud with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish when he famously claimed his mission was to “knock Liverpool off their perch”. Dalglish became the face of the two Scots’ feud, sparring with Fergie whenever the opportunity presented itself. In one epic slight, Dalglish – never one to back down – interrupted one of Sir Alex’s pressers, mean-mugging the camera as he held his baby girl and told reporters “You’d be better off talking to my baby. She’s only six weeks old, but you’d get more sense from her than him.” Using your baby to boil your nemesis’ blood? That’s just plain ruthless.

Pep Guardiola vs. Jurgen Klopp

The two, fabled managers have been battling for top honors in the EPL for quite some time with Klopp repping Liverpool and Guardiola managing Man City. No rivalry would ever be complete without some good, old-fashioned subterfuge. Though their feud hasn’t triggered any embittered physical altercations, both men are classically trained in the art of the mind game, downplaying their teams’ successes to one another while heaping sardonic praise for one another that couldn’t be more transparent. With Pep vying for his fourth league title, besting Klopp will always be the sweetest victory.

What are some noteworthy managerial feuds that have interested you over the years?

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