By Toyin Akiode
The rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho predates their engagement with Manchester City and Manchester United respectively.
Back in LaLiga, the two managers were the greatest of rivals as Barcelona dominated domestic and European football until the Portuguese came to Madrid to create a bit of ‘order’.
The jury is forever out on who the better manager is between the two. Those backing either of them are ready to go to the wires to produce facts as to who is the top one.
Guardiola and Mourinho – Who takes the day?
What cannot be denied is that Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are two of the best 13 or so managers in European club football. Their records speak volume in attestation of their credence.
Now to the matter at hand!
The Citizens (third on the league table) hosts bitter city rivals United in a Champions League qualification tie that could end Mourinho’ s aspirations in playing in the elite competition come next season.
City would go third with a win, and that will suit Liverpool as that would make it much more difficult for Manchester United to crack the top four. A win would be a sensational result for United.
A draw would suit both Manchester clubs, even if it would be regarded with suspicion on Merseyside. Such a result would still leave United’s destiny in their own hands, they could still finish higher than Liverpool without Klopp and his players being able to do much about it, and it would preserve the remarkable unbeaten sequence that José Mourinho has quietly managed to supervise.
Jose Mourinho and the word quiet are not frequently seen in the same sentence!
This could be due to the high number of drawn games and the fact that United have taken up a semi-permanent residence just outside the top four. Otherwise, an unbeaten run of 23 Premier League games should have been accorded better credit.
Head to head.
Both City and United have floundered in recent past. The Red Devils in the Europa League and City in the FA Cup.
United has lost its top goal scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for the rest of the season and have problems at center-half. But – insert drum roll here – they must be able to smell an opportunity that a few months ago seemed unlikely to present itself.
Had the Manchester derby taken place on its original date at the end of February, City would have been strong favourites. Mourinho is now the one with the unbeaten run and a trophy on his sideboard in his first season in Manchester while while Guardiola cannot win anything.
Though losing Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a blow, United seem to have Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford finding form at the right time.
City are coming into the game on the back of a jarring defeat; United have some momentum. Who should be the most confident now? Anything can happen in derbies, as both sides know only too well, but United have a manager who seems to be able to work out a plan to win any given game.
Not in the sense of one game after another but, if there is a single game that must be negotiated, a result to be obtained, Mourinho’s track record of coming up with a plan is excellent. He famously did it against Guardiola’s Barcelona when Internazionale were down to 10 men in the Champions League semi-finals in 2010. He did it just a couple of weeks ago in England when united prevailed against barely recognizable league leaders.
Mourinho, for about a million reasons, would dearly love to cross town and make life even more miserable for Guardiola. United and their supporters would probably enjoy that even more than reaching the Europa League final. Never mind that London is set to claim the major prizes, in Manchester the crux of the season has arrived!
Culled from the Guardian.