Earlier last season, in the wake of the Wayne Rooney transfer saga, Sir Alex Ferguson preached the virtues of experience. "I don't think Manchester United could ever go down the road of having a young manager," he said. The 69-year-old, who was 44 when he took over at Old Trafford, and 32 when he began management at East Stirling, added: "It's a job that needs a lot of experience at the top end of the game."
Clearly Roman Abramovich does not feel the same way about Chelsea, but if Andre Villas-Boas is to end the Russian's quest for a Champions League success he will have to break yet more records. At present the youngest manager to win the European Cup is also the first to do it, Jose Villalonga, who was 36 when he steered Real Madrid to success in 1956. Since then Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have won the competition in their 30s but the nearest Villalonga's mark has come to being lowered was seven years ago when a 34-year-old Didier Deschamps lost the final with Monaco (to Mourinho's Porto).
Indeed, in the 19 seasons of the Champions League only two managers younger than Villas-Boas have even competed: Viktor Goncharenko, 31, of BATE Borisov in 2008, and Ricardo, 32, of Paris St-Germain in 1997. Both failed to escape the group stages, which will not be permitted at Chelsea. But age, said one of the Premier League's youngest-ever managers, should not prevent Villas-Boas being successful.
Aidy Boothroyd was 35 when he took Watford into the top flight five years ago, having been appointed at Vicarage Road a year earlier. "I never had a situation where someone said, 'you're only 34, 35, 36' or whatever," he said yesterday.
"He's had an incredible start to his career but if you are bright enough you can fast-track a lot of things. Obviously working with Jose Mourinho will have helped enormously. He will have seen all the good things Jose does, and maybe learned from some of the mistakes, and added bits of his own.
"His track record with Porto will stand him in good stead when he meets the players for the first time. He'll know the big personalities, like John Terry and Frank Lampard, from being there before, which will help."
Watford lasted one season in the top flight and Boothroyd left after the club failed to bounce back from relegation. He then managed Colchester United and Coventry City before being sacked from the latter last season. With the benefit of that experience he does have some reservations regarding Villas-Boas.
"Older managers make mistakes as well as young ones, but you should become a better manager as you get older because you've learned from the occasional knock-back," said Boothroyd. "Maybe you've been sacked once, you learned to see what's around the corner. He's not had that, but he has worked with Jose and he'll have learned from seeing them at close hand."
Boothroyd is unworried about Villas-Boas's lack of a playing background. A lower-league player himself, he noted: "There is no set route into management. We are all different. Some have been great players, others have more modest backgrounds. Sometimes top players expect players to be able to do the things they could do, and get frustrated when they cannot, whereas people who have not played at a high level often have better training methods because we cannot do those things. Arsène Wenger, Mourinho, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson, none of them were top players.
"Whatever your age and background you need to be able to lead players. The days of carrot and stick are over, these guy are millionaires, or heading that way. They are not going to be motivated by a win bonus. A good manager gets the players, who are all different characters, to focus on a common goal. You want to get players to go above and beyond, to play for you.
"It's going to be interesting. You can't win every game, and you can't win every trophy, but he's going to a club where he will be expected to do both. But judging at his track record he's as good a chance of success as anyone."
Premier League's youngest managers
32yrs 2 months Attilio Lombardo, Crystal Palace, March-April 1998
32yrs 10 months Chris Coleman, Fulham, 2003-07
33yrs 7 months Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea 1998-2000
33yrs 8 months Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea 2011–
33yrs 11 months Ruud Gullit, Chelsea, 1996-98
34yrs 11 months Paul Jewell, Bradford City, 1999-2000
35yrs 4 months Dave Watson, Everton, 1997 (caretaker)
35yrs 6 months Aidy Boothroyd, Watford, 2006-07
35yrs 10 months Glenn Hoddle, Chelsea, 1993-96
35yrs 11 months Gareth Southgate, Middlesbrough, 2006-09Reuse content