Manchester moves to ballad of Pep and Jose
10 August 2016, 08:32
Manchester, United Kingdom -With Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Manchester threatens to become the centre of the footballing universe during the new Premier League season.
The cultured Catalan and provocative Portuguese contested a bitter rivalry during their time in Spain and with 44 top-level trophies between them, they are the biggest managers in the game.
Now charged with the responsibility of hauling the two Manchester clubs back to the top of the table, the outcome of their personal duel could determine who succeeds Leicester City as champions.
"It's United or City. You can't look past those two managers," said former United centre-back Rio Ferdinand.
"They are coming from different places, with Jose wanting to prove the season at Chelsea is a one-off. And Pep is just a proven, serial winner of titles wherever he's been."
The story of the rivalry between Guardiola, 45, and 53-year-old Mourinho -- sacked by Chelsea last December -- has become one of football's most oft-repeated tales.
They first crossed paths at Barcelona in the mid-1990s, when Guardiola was captain and Mourinho worked as an assistant to Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal.
Despite stunning success with Porto and Chelsea, Mourinho was overlooked in favour of the inexperienced Guardiola when Barcelona appointed a new manager in 2008, partly due to fears about his confrontational style.
Mourinho reacted joyously when his Inter Milan side knocked defending champions Barcelona out of the Champions League in 2010, tearing across the Camp Nou pitch in celebration.
His appointment by Real Madrid that year brought him into direct confrontation with Guardiola.
Mourinho's first Clasico ended in a humiliating 5-0 defeat -- the heaviest of his career -- and a sequence of four encounters in two weeks later that season saw the rivalry between the men turn ugly.
In the build-up to their meeting in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals, which Barcelona went on to win 2-0, Mourinho's acerbic comments prompted an angry, foul-mouthed response from the usually placid Guardiola.
That year's Spanish Super Cup witnessed a new low in the relationship between the clubs as Mourinho poked Guardiola's assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye during a touchline melee.
Since Guardiola left Barcelona in 2012, their teams have met just once, Guardiola's Bayern Munich beating Mourinho's Chelsea on penalties in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup.
A substandard Beijing pitch having nixed last month's scheduled friendly between United and City, their next encounter will be a league match at Old Trafford on September 10.
Discussing the rivalry, Mourinho has said that there is no sense in him going after Guardiola as he did in Spain.
"In a situation like this (in Spain), individual fights make sense because they can influence things," he said.
"In the Premier League, if I focus on him and Manchester City, and he on me and Manchester United, someone else is going to win the league."
Guardiola has spoken about the rivalry in positive terms.
"They help me, the big coaches, and Jose is one of them. They help me to reach another level," he said.
"My experience against him, against (Jurgen) Klopp at Dortmund, they made me better."
The circumstances of the two men's arrivals in northwest England only serve to emphasise the differences between them.
Guardiola's move to City has been long in the offing, the club's Emirati owners enrolling his two former Barcelona allies Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain to prepare the ground for him years in advance.
Much as he did at Bayern, Guardiola is expected to give City a distinctive playing style and establish a template for success that can be followed for years to come.
Mourinho's move to Old Trafford was far more precipitous, reflecting United's desperation to recover their lustre after three dismal years under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
The pragmatist to Guardiola's idealist, Mourinho has enjoyed instant success wherever he has worked, but to repeat the trick at United, he must outwit a very familiar foe.