Premier League: Top five Manager of the Year candidates

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Managers are usually the first to be blamed when it goes wrong and the last to be praised when it goes right.

The majority of them know that a bad run of eight games and their job is seriously under threat. But these five managers have all excelled this season for different reasons.

Take a look at my top five and judge for yourself.

Sir Alex Ferguson | Manchester United

Another year, another title: Manchester United’s 20th and Sir Alex’s 13th.

As the curtain draws down on what has been a glittering career, this season was no exception. He celebrated his 1500th - and final - game against West Brom last Sunday.

After narrowly losing the Premier League title on the last day of last season, he was determined to reclaim the crown. He splashed £24m on Robin van Persie and his 25 goals have helped capture the title for United.

The Red Devils finished 11 points clear of Manchester City and won 28 of their 38 games.

He managed to keep the majority of his players happy, and his hunger and passion for the game never once perished during his reign. If anything, he was more determined to succeed with each passing year.

Ferguson will well and truly be missed by everybody in football.

Michael Laudrup | Swansea City

I know they’ve only had two seasons in England’s top flight, but this has been Swansea’s most successful Premier League campaign ever.

In his first season in charge of the Swans, Laudrup has made the team his own. He lost key players Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen to Manchester City and Liverpool respectively and replaced them with foreign influence such as £2m bargain buy Michu and Pablo Hernandez.

In February, Swansea won the Capital One Cup beating Bradford 5-0 in the final after eliminating Chelsea in the semi-finals. Even though they finished one point lower than last season, they actually finished two places higher and have the Europa League to look forward to next season.

Steve Clarke | West Brom

Before a ball was kicked this season, not many people would have predicted just how good Steve Clarke and West Brom would be.

He has built a very dangerous counter-attacking side which has seen them score 53 goals this year. The summer loan signing of Romelu Lukaku was a major boost - his hat-trick against champions Manchester United took his tally to 17 for the season.

The midfield partnership of Youssef Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob have added steel and calmness on the ball, while Shane Long has the pace and trickiness to score vital goals.

Clarke has worked well with a rather small budget and has guided the club to a record 14 wins in the league. His side took a point from White Hart Lane, beat Chelsea and Everton at home and snatched a 5-5 draw from Manchester United.

An eighth-place finish will be hard to improve upon, but Albion certainly have a manager capable of doing so with a couple of fresh faces.

Rafael Benitez | Chelsea

It has been a funny old season for Rafael Benitez; it’s not often that your own home fans are against you.

Brought in to replace FA Cup and Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo, Benitez has actually finished as the second most successful manager in the top-flight, securing a third-place finish and a Europa League crown to add to his highly impressive CV.

He has had to overcome severe scrutiny from his own fans which has made his job ten times harder. But Benitez still managed to secure a huge 8-0 victory against Aston Villa, while his team also became the first to score four or more goals at the Britannia Stadium and he recorded a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in early May.

I’m sure other managers are envious of Benitez’s achievements, but it won’t be enough for him to be at Chelsea next season, with Jose Mourinho set to return.

David Moyes | Everton

Another season of over achievement for Everton, to finish higher than Liverpool despite Brendan Rodgers' much more lucrative budget is nothing short of amazing.

Their home form has been crucial: defeating Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham. In fact, Everton were the only team to lose just once at home all season, a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.

Moyes has competed for a European spot all year despite not really having a striker. The goals have dried up from Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe is hardly prolific. The summer signing of Kevin Mirallas added pace and directness to the Everton attack and he has also tried to give youngsters such as Ross Barkley game time.

The most obvious way to prove his managerial ability is the fact he has been chosen to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United. A huge achievement.

Verdict: For me, it goes to Michael Laudrup, with Steve Clarke a close second.

Swansea finished just one place lower than West Brom but won the Capital One Cup. Laudrup had to rebuild the side after some major departures; he has built the team around an attacking philosophy and has made some great signings.

An honourable mention must also go to Roberto Martinez. Wigan’s FA Cup win was nothing short of incredible. But it is also very hard to nominate a Manager of the Year who failed his main objective, which was to stay up.

Who is your Manager of the Year? Let us know in the comments section below.


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