The two ace tacticians renew their rivalry, but have swapped Spain for Manchester. Khel Now examines how their rivalry could play out in the Premier League…
Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho were bitter foes when they were in charge at Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. Now they have started work at the same time in Manchester, with Guardiola taking over at City and Mourinho returning to the Premier League as Manchester United’s new manager.
The two ace tacticians have faced each other on 16 occasions. The records make for ugly reading for the latter. The former Barcelona manager has won seven, while Mourinho has prevailed on just three occasions with the other six encounters ending in draws.
The majority of those games came when the two managers were in charge at Spain’s big two. Guardiola was, for that period, at the helm of what is a legitimate contender for the greatest club side in the history of world football. However, despite that unfavorable head-to-head record, Mourinho managed to win one of the two league titles they directly competed against each other for.
The 2015/16 season saw both United and City win silverware, but their performances in the league were a major disappointment for both clubs. The Red Devils are in need of both a quick fix and long-term stability after David Moyes and Louis van Gaal struggled as successors to Alex Ferguson, whose 26-year reign ended in 2013. Mourinho has been quick to insist he is far from damaged goods having lifted the Premier League trophy in May 2015 before his second Chelsea stint imploded much like the first.
As expected, the Portuguese has set his sights high for his first season at Old Trafford. “At Manchester United for many years, success was just routine and in this moment the last three years are to forget,” Mourinho said at a packed news conference. “I don’t want the players to think we have to do better and finish fourth. Finishing fourth is not the aim.”
Mourinho has already signed defender Eric Bailly and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan has also joined from Borussia Dortmund and more arrivals are set to follow.
Ryan Giggs, United’s most successful academy graduate, was overlooked for the manager’s job after two years assisting van Gaal. British football’s most decorated player ended a 29-year association as a result and stressed in his departure statement that “giving youth a chance” is in the club’s DNA. Contrastingly, Mourinho’s record of utilizing players developed by the club was questioned during his spells at Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Can the Blue Moon rise again?
In the opposite corner in this duel is Guardiola who is twice a Champions League winner as Barcelona coach and after winning three league titles in Spain, also led Bayern Munich to a hat-trick of Bundesliga successes.
For all his acolytes, imposing his style of eye-catching, passing football on the Premier League and winning honours domestically and in Europe with City could be his toughest test yet after the 2013-14 champions finished fourth in the league last season under Manuel Pellegrini.
Guardiola has so far signed three players in midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko as well as forward Nolito and admitted he is keen to strengthen his squad further. The City boss has been linked with moves for defenders John Stones of Everton, and Juventus and Italy star Leonardo Bonucci. But, he hopes club captain Vincent Kompany will overcome the injury problems that have dogged him in recent seasons to remain a key part of his plans.
These two managers have seen enormous success. Guardiola has won 21 trophies including six titles and two Champions Leagues in seven years at Barcelona and Bayern. Similarly, Mourinho has won 22 trophies over thirteen years with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. The serial winners have now been tasked with restoring glory to the two Manchester clubs.
Mourinho is a strong believer in counter-attacking football and he has been criticized as many believe his tactics are incompatible with the attacking football he is expected to serve up in the red half of Manchester. Guardiola on the other hand believes in ball domination and multi-dimensional players who can play in a number of positions.
There is also the factor of an ever more competitive Premier League. The Spaniard has so far managed in two leagues where his team was the undisputed leader of the pack. In England he walks into a very different environment, a space that has many other contenders for the throne. As someone who has succeeded on many occasions in this highly surcharged atmosphere, Mourinho definitely holds the edge here.
Jose Mourinho vs. Pep Guardiola over the years
For Guardiola his time in England will likely prove a test of his character as much as that of his managerial acumen. It’s an opportunity to cement his greatness in football management, a chance to prove that he does not necessarily need a group of world beaters to win trophies. For Mourinho, the United job is one that he has courted not too discreetly for some time. However, he comes to Old Trafford at arguably the most challenging time. The glorious memories of Sir Alex Ferguson’s long reign are fading into the distance, but still weigh heavily on the shoulders of his successors. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, for one reason or another weren’t able to live up to those lofty standards. Mourinho undoubtedly possesses the caliber to lead the Red Devils. But, in rebuilding United back to their glory days he will also seek to undo at least some of the damage that resulted in his acrimonious departure from Stamford Bridge, whilst also asserting that he is more than just a quick fix and can indeed lead a project for a length of time.
The outcome of the battles between these two pedigreed bosses will not only significantly influence the Premier League title race in years to come, but is also likely to shape the legacies they leave behind at their respective bases. It will be fascinating to find out which of these two giants establishes their pre-dominance over Manchester, whilst they also seek to wrestle the balance of power in the English game back from the capital’s bigwigs.
Editorial by Khel Now Intern writer Kartikeya Chandra Sen – An aspiring sports journalist and part time history student at SOAS London, a wanderlust at heart. My love for history has made me realize that the thirst for knowledge can never be quenched. On a side note I am also a keen food enthusiast