Wenger & Houllier, Ferguson & Mourinho, Clough & Taylor and the top 7 managerial love-ins

Mind games between bosses have become a common part of the modern game, but Tim Ellis picks out seven sets of coaches who had nothing but positive words to say about each other…

1. Ronald Koeman and Pep Guardiola

Pep was even known to bring a drop of hydrogen oxide to the man he looked up to whenever it was required

The Koeman-Guardiola love-in was positively syrup-laden before October's encounter between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium. The Dutchman was at the peak of his powers at Barcelona when Johan Cruyff asked him to mentor the younger Guardiola, who used to drive into the club's headquarters in a second-hand Opel.

“I like young players when they are still open to learn and behave normally, not driving a Porsche after three matches in the first team," Koeman said. "I have all good memories of Pep. We have a really strong friendship."

“He always played good in the big games," Guardiola gushed in response. "Against Real Madrid, in the Champions League, he was amazing. He's one of the best central defenders I've met in my entire life."

Ronald Koeman, Pep Guardiola

Koeman and Guardiola are so close that Pep gave him an Indian head massage when City played Everton in October

Pep was even known to bring a drop of hydrogen oxide to the man he looked up to whenever it was required; "when Ronald needed water, he'd wake up to water from me,” he admitted last month.

That’s true football love.

2. Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier

The two men immediately hit it off, although the friendship almost came to a sudden end when Houllier was rushed to hospital in 2001

Wenger may have had his fair share of difficult relationships with adversaries such as Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, but Houllier was both a fierce rival and friend at the same time.

"We enjoy spending time together, not just talking about football" the ex-Liverpool manager once said of his Arsenal counterpart. "He's been a friend, part of your universe, part of your life."

The first professional meeting between the pair came in 1984, when Wenger was in charge of Nancy and Houllier was at the helm at Lens. The two men immediately hit it off, although the friendship almost came to a sudden end when Houllier was rushed to hospital for emergency heart surgery in 2001. Thankfully, he made a full recovery - much to Wenger's relief.

“If that happens one day later, then he is a dead man," the Gunners boss mused. "That certainly damaged his potential to finish the job he started so well at Liverpool."

Arsene Wenger, Gerard Houllier

Compatriots Wenger and Houllier watch their Arsenal and Liverpool teams do battle in 1999

3. Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill

Those of us who didn’t have Keane down as a manhugger would have been surprised by he and O'Neill's touchy-feely reaction

Those of us who didn’t have Keane down as a manhugger would have been surprised by he and O'Neill's touchy-feely reaction to the Republic of Ireland’s defeat of Italy at Euro 2016.

“There was too much of a song and dance made about it because we were happy celebrating. It’s just called being happy, you should try it," Keane, a man hardly associated with joy and joviality, said in the aftermath.

When O’Neill was asked what was said between the two, he deadpanned: “I told him to shave his beard; it was rustling my chin. And I don’t want him to hug me again ever.”

They like each other really.

4. Jose Mourinho and Aitor Karanka

After losing his job as Chelsea boss in December 2015, Mourinho was spotted watching his former protege’s Middlesbrough side take on Brighton

The Middlesbrough head coach worked as Mourinho's assistant at Real Madrid for three years, having previously managed Spain's Under-16s. “Jose has a manner... he's an amazing person," Karanka enthused in August. "He was really supportive of me, always teaching me. I have an amazing relationship with him."

Just two days after losing his job as Chelsea boss in December 2015, Mourinho was spotted watching his former protege’s Middlesbrough side take on Brighton. "As an assistant he was humble, honest, loyal and part of my staff with his soul and his heart,” the Portuguese said of his former colleague.

Karanka shouldn't expect such warmth to extend to their forthcoming meeting at Old Trafford in December, however.

Aitor Karanka, Jose Mourinho

Karanka and Mourinho forged a close bond at Real Madrid

5) Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce

Ferguson also weighed in on the war of words between Allardyce and Rafael Benitez after the former accused the Liverpool manager of signalling "game over"

Fergie and Big Sam have been good mates ever since they first sat alongside one another on the executive committee of the League Managers Association. Whatever the result of their frequent duels on the touchline (Ferguson usually won), a decent bottle of red was always waiting for the pair upstairs.

“He’s very underrated, it’s as simple as that," the Scot said of the recently-departed England boss. "There’s a sort of impression about him being a certain type of manager. It’s not really fair.”

Allardyce, meanwhile, was chuffed that he was able to speak to the Manchester United chief on a fairly regular basis. “You can’t underestimate what it means to have the best football manager in the world on the other end of the telephone should you need him," he admitted while in charge of West Ham.

Benitez's gesture angered Allardyce

Ferguson even weighed in on an war of words between Allardyce and Rafael Benitez, after the former accused the Liverpool manager of signalling "game over" during a meeting with his Blackburn outfit in 2009.

"There is one thing about the arrogance he has shown, but the thing you can’t forgive is his contempt to Sam Allardyce last week when Liverpool scored their second goal," Ferguson raged. It's safe to say there was no wine waiting for the Spaniard on his next trip to Old Trafford.

6. Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho

“I knew that Ferguson was retiring many months ago and I was so happy to have his trust," Mourinho boasted

Mourinho's never been the most gracious of losers, so his admission that "the best team lost" when Ferguson's Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by his Real Madrid in 2013 was rather significant.

“I knew that Ferguson was retiring many months ago and I was so happy to have his trust," Mourinho boasted. "It was big news for the world. I can imagine that just a very close circle around him knew that and it was a big responsibility for me to know that. Why do I know that? Because we are friends.”

As for the Scot, he seemed to see a lot of himself in Mourinho, particularly in terms of the emotion and character he showed in the dugout. “In the first year at Chelsea when I saw him running along the touchline at Old Trafford, he reminded me of my first years at Aberdeen, jumping, raising my arms, celebrating," Ferguson said in 2011.

Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson

"Leave us to it, Mike"

7. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor

It was a match made in some kind of oddball heaven: Clough, the limelight seeker with the sharpest of sound bites and a man-management style that was as brusque as they come; Taylor the shy and humble assistant with an amazing ability to spot talent.

Nottingham Forest were the beneficiaries of the pair's talent, with Clough and Taylor guiding the East Midlanders to a First Division title, two European Cups and two League Cups during their time together at the City Ground.

The duo later fell out, though, and weren't on speaking terms when Taylor passed away in 1990. 'Ol Big 'Ead dedicated his 1994 autobiography to his less celebrated partner with a poignant inscription: “You once said: 'When you get shot of me there won't be as much laughter in your life'. You were right.”

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