Guardiola and Mourinho: Tale of two managers

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola see Manchester as the place that will define their legacy. One seeks to create a giant, the other to rebuild a fallen one. How they go about it will provide gripping viewing.

Pep Guardiola has made a concerted effort to spread the minutes throughout the squad, handling all his players’ needs by giving them opportunities to flourish.   -  AFP

In the year of the manager, as this Premier League season has been dubbed following the addition of several high-profile head coaches in the summer, instant reward is the sole currency by which many will judge them. At least in the short term, that is. But it is beyond those first 10 months, and the future prospects of the clubs involved, that will most tellingly show who had the greatest impact in charge for their respective teams.

Central to this managerial showdown sits Manchester and two former colleagues Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Once helping to forge a triumphant Barcelona as an assistant coach and player, now they rekindle their fierce rivalry as two of the most successful managers in the world. Previously managerial foes in Spain’s La Liga, this time around they do battle in a single city for the first time, with both aiming for similar success but driven by different requirements.

For Mourinho, back in the Premier League for his third stint as manager, the objective is simple: restore pride in a withering Manchester United and restock their trophy cabinet, which since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson has laid relatively bare.

Guardiola, meanwhile, is charged with securing the blue side of Manchester their first Champions League trophy, while also maintaining their own challenge for the league title. The much sought-after European prize has so far eluded the new, mega rich Manchester City — who were transformed from paupers to wealthy heavyweights after being taken over by Sheikh Mansour in 2008 — and has become the focus of their endeavours as the club attempt to muscle its way into football’s global elite.

The stark contrast between the two managers’ objectives speaks volumes for where they currently are in their careers and how both go about their business. United struggle in eighth position while City prosper at the top of the table. Much like United, Mourinho is looking to re-establish his credentials having seen his stature in the game shrink slightly after being sacked by Chelsea following a disappointing season in 2015/16. Known for a lack of far-sightedness, not looking ahead to the decay of his preferred aging teams and trying to make a permanent change to a club so that they thrive long after he’s left, Mourinho is yet to manage a side for more than three successive seasons.

The here and now is all that concerns him. And it’s a telling trait. Mourinho is a man who likes to select his favoured side and stick by it. This season is unlike most, however. At Chelsea in 2004/05 when he won his first Premier League title, Mourinho started just 23 different players across the season. In the 2014/15 winning season, only 20 players made his first XI. Ten league games into his tenure at United and 18 players have already started a match for him. The likelihood is that that total will grow substantially before the final match is concluded in May, as he seeks to discover his best team. In comparison, Guardiola has made a concerted effort to spread the minutes throughout the squad, handling all his players’ needs by giving them opportunities to flourish. Twenty-three players have started so far. Crucially for City, that includes ensuring a youthful contingent is brought through. Even those that don’t make it into the men’s side will have been studied personally by Guardiola; the manager routinely watches highlights of youth matches and has up to eight under-18 players involved in first team training at any one time.

While that approach differs to Mourinho’s, both men see Manchester as the place that will define their legacy. One seeks to create a giant, the other to rebuild a fallen one. How they go about it will provide gripping viewing.