Mourinho vs Guardiola: Two Sides Of The Same Coin

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Mou Wins- 4
Pep Wins – 8
Draws – 6
The Mou Pep rivalry has been one of the best storylines in modern football. From their famous Champions League battle with Barcelona and Inter Milan to their now infamous La Liga battles that led to Guardiola growing weary of elite football, subsequently losing his hair and Mourinho setting the La Liga points record. Few can forget the 2010/2011 season where they played each other five times in one season with four of the games coming over a three week period. Their rivalry continued but never quite reached the height of April/May 2011 and yes I am including the touchline “incident” of August 2011.


Their battles- all 18 of them have been great fixtures featuring the masterful defending from the Mou teams versus the tiki taka of Pep’s sides coupled with the genius that is Messi.  These fixtures were akin to the Arsenal/ Manchester United rivalry of the 90s.
Guardiola’s free flowing football versus Mou’s Pragmatic approach to the game has inspired some of the great philosophical debates of modern football.  It is sometimes hard to reconcile both their approaches to the education they recieved at that great incubator of managerial talent: Nineties Barcelona. Guardiola, the homegrown captain and Mourinho the translator turned assistant coach. Joan Laporta’s decision to hire a novice in Guardiola  over a Champions League winning coach in Mourinho added another dimension to this rivalry. Mourinho popping up at Madrid could have been interpreted as one giant middle finger to the Catalans.
Their rivalry has now extended to the Premier League with their roles reversed from their first meetings with Chelsea and Barcelona. Guardiola is no longer the manager of a side with such illustrious pedigree. Mourinho is at a club where there’s minimal room for the personality clashes with domineering owners/administrators like Roman Abramovic and Florentino Perez. It’s a testament to their greatness that they have turned one of the English game’s grand derbies to just another footnote in their storied rivalry.

The Premier League has proved challenging for Guardiola who started the season in fine form but has been undermined by a range of hiccups.  He started out the season getting rid of Samir Nasri and Joe Hart, transforming his full backs to midfielders and exiling Yaya Toure after a disagreement with his outspoken agent. His defenders have struggled while club captain, Vincent Kompany has been  injured for the better part of season. His goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has also struggled to adapt to the League. To Guardiola’s credit though, he has built a devastating attack this season – a three pronged attack built on pacy wingers and Sergio Aguero whose position was under threat for a period this season. Two of his three midfielders have performed well this term with De Bruyne building on his excellent 2015/16 season and Silva reminding us he is still one of the best around. Next season will be a big one at the Etihad as Guardiola should ideally key in on his targets and shape the squad in his image.

Mourinho has history with the Premier League. His last season at Chelsea underwhelmed after the success of the season before. The call from United came later than it should have after he’d been overlooked in favour of Moyes. Mourinho has the managerial gravitas to manage a club like United. Like all Mourinho teams, there has been a streak of defensive solidity.  While Guardiola’s problems are purely defensive, Mou’s current shortcomings seep into every other phase of play. His most effective midfielder and striker: Michael  Carrick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic  are both on the wrong side of 30. The midfield lacks cohesion.

Both managers have already met twice this season with a win apiece. This game comes at a time when both sides are living down the relative failures of their season. United’s priority is the Europa League which could secure them a place back among Europe’s elite while City come to terms with the latest unraveling episode of their season- losing the Cup semi final to Arsenal meaning that for the first time in his career, Guardiola will go through a trophy less season. This derby effectively whets the appetite for the main course next season.