Mour­inho strug­gling to match Guardiola Greatness at City! But at what cost?

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Htsportsmax - Agence France­Presse sportm@hin­dus­tan­times.com New York Times sportm@hin­dus­tan­times.com

MANCH­ESTER DERBY De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons will hope to avenge last sea­son’s 3­2 loss and ex­tend lead on top of ta­ble MANCH­ESTER:

Manch­ester United turned to Jose Mour­inho as the an­ti­dote to their “noisy neigh­bours” Manch­ester City fi­nally achiev­ing their long-held goal of hir­ing Pep Guardiola as man­ager in 2016.

Re­united in Eng­land’s north­west af­ter two con­fronta­tional years on ei­ther side of the Barcelona-Real Madrid ri­valry, where Mour­inho ended Guardiola’s three sea­sons of La Liga dom­i­nance, United clearly hoped the feisty Por­tuguese could again get un­der the Cata­lan’s skin.

But now in their third sea­sons in charge, Guardiola and Mour­inho’s reigns have in­stead seen a chasm open up with the blue half of Manch­ester now the dom­i­nant side of the city.

Win the Manch­ester derby on Sun­day and City will al­ready be 12 points clear of United just 12 games into the new sea­son, a gap that has grad­u­ally widened in each of the past three years.

“There is a quality of the work, of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, I think that is un­touch­able,” even Mour­inho ad­mit­ted on Fri­day.

STRUGGLE TO WIN

City cer­tainly seem un­touch­able at the mo­ment. Once again on top of the Premier League, a goal dif­fer­ence of plus 29 to United’s plus one tells the story of both sides con­trast­ing for­tunes so far.

United have at least shown some re­silience in re­cent weeks, com­ing from be­hind to beat Newcastle, Bournemouth and most im­pres­sively Ital­ian cham­pi­ons Ju­ven­tus in mid­week.

Yet, even then every vic­tory seems a struggle. Only twice have they won by more than one goal all sea­son, to City’s 12 mul­ti­ple­goal vic­to­ries.

Guardiola also boasts an im­pres­sive record against Mour­inho, los­ing just five of their 21 meet­ings. But that in­cludes the last one when United came from 2-0 down to stun the Eti­had in a 3-2 vic­tory that robbed City of the ex­tra sat­is­fac­tion of seal­ing the ti­tle against their ri­vals.

“The point is can we im­prove enough to catch them next sea­son?” Mour­inho said at the time.

Fast for­ward seven months and Mour­inho has turned on his su­pe­ri­ors at the club for his fail­ure to match City’s pro­gres­sion un­der Guardiola. “To go to the Ju­ven­tus level? Barcelona level? Real Madrid level? Manch­ester City level? How can you reach this level” he com­plained af­ter los­ing the first of United’s dou­ble

TEN­NIS BAG

header with Juve.

Mour­inho’s ar­gu­ment is that he has not had the back­ing Guardiola has in the trans­fer mar­ket, de­spite United spend­ing more than the Premier League cham­pi­ons this sum­mer.

Most of that went on Brazil­ian mid­fielder Fred, a player also cov­eted by City, but who has largely failed to make an im­pact.

There was a time with Sir Alex Fer­gu­son in charge when City fans went to der­bies more in hope than ex­pec­ta­tion. Guardiola has put the shoe on the other foot.

COME­BACK MEN

Quite like the Manch­ester United of the past, Jose Mour­inho seems to have in­cul­cated a ‘fight till the end’ men­tal­ity in the cur­rent lot. In the past cou­ple of weeks, United came from two goals down to win against Newcastle, drew against Chelsea de­spite trail­ing 1-0 in the first half, beat Bournemouth 2-1 af­ter con­ced­ing early and struck twice at the death to sur­prise Ju­ven­tus 2-1 in the Cham­pi­ons League.

POR­OUS DE­FENCE

The last time United kept a clean sheet in the league was back in Septem­ber when they beat Burnley 2-0. Since then, they have con­ceded 11 goals in seven games while scor­ing 13. Against City’s free-flowing style, United’s back­line have to give it their best to thwart the cham­pi­ons.

BAT­TLE OF MAN­AGERS: PEP V JOSE

Sun­day’s derby bat­tle would be also a clash be­tween two tow­er­ing coaches – Pepe Guardiola and Jose Mour­inho. The two leg­ends’

RE­LENT­LESS CITY

Ta­ble-top­pers City have been re­lent­less with their at­tack­ing brand of foot­ball this sea­son. They rank first on every mea­sure that mat­ters. They have scored the most goals, had the most shots on tar­get and have cre­ated most num­ber of chances. Ser­gio Aguero and Raheem Ster­ling have done well in front scor­ing 13 goals be­tween them.

City have also plugged their holes in de­fence, con­ced­ing only four goals and keeping clean sheets seven times. Much of the credit for it goes to cen­tre-back pair­ing of Aymeric La­porte and John Stones who have kept things pretty tight at the back.

RAM­PANT HOSTS, VIS­I­TORS UN­BEATEN

Manch­ester City have been splen­did at the Eti­had Sta­dium this sea­son. They’re un­beaten in the league, and have pumped in 24 goals while con­ced­ing just thrice. How­ever, United have an edge over City in re­cent head-to-head clashes. While Red Devils have emerged tri­umphant in four out of their last eight meet­ings, the Cit­i­zens have won only two matches in the same pe­riod.

United also won the last meet­ing be­tween th­ese two sides at the Eti­had in April. Since then, though, City have won eight of the nine games at home, in­clud­ing all six this sea­son. as­so­ci­a­tion goes back to a pe­riod of over 20 years when Mour­inho was a mem­ber of Sir Bobby Rob­son's coach­ing team at the Camp Nou while Guardiola was a player there.

In the 21 meet­ings be­tween them to date, which also in­clude El

IN­JURY WOES FOR CITY

Romelu Lukaku is back in train­ing af­ter miss­ing out the last two games while Marouane Fel­laini came on as a sub­sti­tute in Turin. An­to­nio Va­len­cia, too, is back in train­ing and might be part of the derby but Diogo Dalot is cer­tain to sit out. City, how­ever, will miss the ser­vices of Kevin de

Bruyne, Clau­dio Bravo and

Eli­aquim Man­gala. There are also doubts over Ni­co­las

Ota­mendi and Ilkay Gun­do­gan. has scored against United in their last nine clashes United won Draw City won

The prob­lem with Manch­ester City, as Arsene Wenger saw it, was not sim­ply that it pos­sessed an ap­par­ently bot­tom­less well of wealth. It was that City was smart, too. “Petrol and ideas,” as Wenger, the for­mer Arsenal man­ager, put it. “Money and quality.”

Wenger, of course, spent much of his ca­reer rail­ing against foot­ball’s in­ex­orable drift into the grasp of oli­garchs and plu­to­crats, vainly es­pous­ing the virtues of sus­tain­abil­ity as the game swooned be­fore lever­aged bil­lion­aires and sov­er­eign in­vest­ment funds. It was Wenger who first in­tro­duced the idea of “fi­nan­cial dop­ing” to the sport, preach­ing par­si­mony dur­ing a gold rush.

By the end, though, even he did not be­lieve City’s suc­cess could be ex­plained solely by its bal­ance sheet. Its pre-em­i­nence could not have been achieved with­out the bil­lion-plus pounds pro­vided by its backer, Sheikh Man­sour bin Zayed al Nahyan, but it would not have been so com­plete had that money not been spent so wisely.

The most ob­vi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tion of that has been on the field: Pep Guardiola’s team won the Premier League last sea­son with more points and more goals than any team in the mod­ern era. It did so with such style, such ruth­less élan that Eng­land as a whole will “for­ever be grate­ful” for Guardiola’s pres­ence, as for­mer striker Gary Lineker put it. When Eng­land’s na­tional team reached the semi­fi­nals of the World Cup last sum­mer, many cred­ited Guardiola, at least in part, for help­ing to smooth the in­tro­duc­tion of a more mod­ern ap­proach.

Sim­i­lar suc­cess in the Cham­pi­ons League, the com­pe­ti­tion its ex­ec­u­tives cher­ish more than any other, has proved more elu­sive. City does not need the tro­phy, though, to know that it has al­ready joined Europe’s front rank of teams.

In the doc­u­ments re­leased by the opaque whistle­blow­ing plat­form Foot­ball Leaks to the Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel, five Premier League clubs were named as party to a plan to launch a break­away Euro­pean Su­per League — re­plac­ing the Cham­pi­ons League — start­ing in 2021. City was among them. The petrol, and the ideas, have brought City

MANCH­ESTER:

City man­ager Pep Guardiola raised the prospect on Fri­day of foot­ball au­thor­i­ties pun­ish­ing Premier League cham­pi­ons over at­tempts to cir­cum­vent fi­nan­cial fair play rules.

The club has not dis­puted the au­then­tic­ity of in­ter­nal mes­sages show­ing how it used com­pa­nies linked to the Abu Dhabi own­er­ship to boost rev­enue in an at­tempt to curb losses and com­ply with UEFA reg­u­la­tions.

“If there’s some­thing wrong we’ll be pun­ished,” Guardiola said. “If we were wrong will ac­cept it but I hear what my club said to me and I trust a lot of them.”

City, which has been owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Man­sour for a decade, was pun­ished by UEFA in 2014 for breach­ing the “Fi­nan­cial Fair Play” pro­gram.

LON­DON:Manch­ester

to the head ta­ble.

Those doc­u­ments, though, have painted an en­tirely dif­fer­ent pic­ture of City from the one that had con­vinced so many of its op­po­nents to fol­low its ex­am­ple.

There are de­tails of in­flated spon­sor­ship deals de­signed to mask covert cash in­jec­tions from the club’s own­ers; of closed pay­ment loops with spu­ri­ous third­party com­pa­nies for play­ers’ im­age rights; of a for­mer man­ager’s salary that seems, at least in part, to have been bol­stered by an “ad­vi­sory” role with an­other club owned by Man­sour; of a se­cret partnership with a Dan­ish team that may have breached rules on a club’s in­flu­ence; of le­gal threats to­ward not only UEFA but to the ac­count­ing firm sent in to ex­am­ine the club’s ac­counts; and of back­room deals with Gianni In­fantino, at the time the gen­eral sec­re­tary of UEFA and now the most pow­er­ful man at FIFA.

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