In 20 years time, it’s likely that when asked to name the two most consequential managers of the 2000s and 2010s, the two most frequently cited managers will be Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. Both managers have won domestic league titles in multiple major European leagues and have won multiple Champions League trophies. They’ve developed innovative tactical approaches that take prior thinking and introduce new wrinkles that have baffled their opponents. So far in their careers, they have only been in the same league for two seasons—which came in Guardola’s final years at Barcelona.
Now the two managers are installed at what are quite possibly the two wealthiest clubs in world football and they have arrived at the same time, which gives us a chance to see them develop their respective clubs simultaneously. This weekend’s Manchester derby, then, may be something of a base line for evaluating the two iconic managers’ times in Manchester.
For me, I’m expecting a United win. The Red Devils will have home field advantage, which looms large when Jose Mourinho is your manager. More importantly, however, Mourinho’s style is by definition risk-averse in ways that Guardiola’s generally is not. Mourinho will set up in a basic 4-2-3-1 and play an XI that is sturdy, if unremarkable. He also has Zlatan Ibrahimovic up top and, if the early season is anything to go on, Zlatan can still manufacture goals even though he isn’t the force of nature he was at his peak.
Guardiola, meanwhile, has set his City up in what can almost be called a 2-3-5 this season. He demands a high defensive line, aggressive high pressing, and carefully orchestrated attacking moves that rely on one-touch passing and quickly reversing the ball in order to shift the defense and move them out of position.
Put it this way: Peak Guardiola teams can tear Mourinho teams to shreds, as we saw multiple times during their Spanish years. But anything less than a Peak Guardiola team struggles to break down Mourinho teams. And we’re a long way from seeing Peak Guardiola at City. As a result, we’re almost certainly headed for a vintage Mourinho top four battle in which the Portuguese’s team strangles play and wins 1-0 off a goal they didn’t really deserve.
Some Manchester derby links:
Bitter and Blue looked at Guardiola’s 3-2-5 attacking shape at City.
Sky Sports recapped the history between Mourinho and Guardiola
How will City cope without suspended striker Sergio Aguero?
Mourinho has more to lose this weekend.
Jonathan Wilson explained how Guardiola is reinventing the WM.
Erik Lamela started in place of Leo Messi for Argentina as they drew 2-2 with Venezuela in World Cup qualifying.
And here are some other links of note:
England aren’t a Sam Allardyce team... yet.
This is a fun #wellactually on Louis Saha.
Sid Lowe’s Guardian feature on Andres Iniesta’s struggles with depression is worth your time.