Is Manch­ester big enough for the both of them?

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

SPAIN is 195,124 square miles (505,368.84 square kilo­me­tres), and for two years ear­lier this decade, that proved enough to con­tain two gi­nor­mous pres­ences. They could work hun­dreds of miles apart – one in Madrid, the other in Barcelona – and leave just enough room for 48 mil­lion other peo­ple.

Greater Manch­ester is 493 square miles (1276 sq km), and it is about to at­tempt an ex­per­i­ment un­fath­omably dar­ing. As this week­end brings the open­ing of an­other EPL sea­son – that stands for English Premier League, but re­ally for Earth Premier League – the sec­ond-largest metropoli­tan area in Bri­tain some­how will serve as the res­i­dence and work­place for both Jose Mour­inho and Pep Guardi­ola, foot­ball man­agers. It does blow the mind.

Can these two glam egos, with their im­pec­ca­ble at­tire, their ac­cu­mu­lated cups and their cap­ti­vat­ing, com­pre­hen­sive van­ity, op­er­ate at sta­di­ums 4 miles apart with­out chok­ing up the traf­fic for about 2.55 mil­lion others? A world is about to learn. Once the Olympic flame goes out in Rio de Janeiro, the cen­tre of global sports fig­ures to be­come the one city in which, some­how, Mour­inho will man­age a freshly con­tend­ing Manch­ester United on the south­west edge, while Guardi­ola will man­age a still-con­tend­ing Manch­ester City on the east edge.

Mour­inho, born 53 years ago about 30 miles south of Lis­bon and for­merly at Porto, Chelsea, In­ter Mi­lan, Real Madrid and Chelsea again, will man­age Manch­ester United, a club com­ing off fin­ishes of sev­enth, fourth and fifth, with a fan base more ac­cus­tomed to first. Guardi­ola, born 45 years ago about 30 miles north of Barcelona, and for­merly at Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich, will man­age Manch­ester City, a club com­ing off a fourth-place fin­ish af­ter two league ti­tles this decade.

Even with line-ups stocked with enough might that fore­casts of a 1-2 fin­ish are com­mon, and with Manch­ester United adding splashy signees Paul Pogba and Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, eyes won’t be able to re­sist the two man­agers. If, in the lulls of late July, you could ven­ture from City of Manch­ester Sta­dium to Old Traf­ford with­out see­ing any pho­tos of ei­ther of them, they’re sort of hov­er­ing in the sky any­way.

Here’s some news: Re­cently, Mour­inho an­nounced he would ab­stain from In­sta­gram un­til Christ­mas.

“I will share a nice fam­ily pic­ture and Christ­mas, and now no more fun,” he told BT Sport. What re­lief to know. En­ticers: Septem­ber 10: Manch­ester City at Manch­ester United. Fe­bru­ary 25: Manch­ester United at Manch­ester City.

On July 5 and July 8, they held their in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ences which, of course, dou­bled as events them­selves. With their com­bined 14 league ti­tles (eight by Mour­inho) in four coun­tries, and their four-ofthe-last-12 Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles (two each), each none­the­less fielded ques­tions about what they had to prove, with Mour­inho seven months re­moved from a sack­ing at Chelsea, and Guardi­ola just off three years of mere league ti­tles viewed as nor­malcy for Bay­ern Mu­nich.

Mour­inho, keenly aware of his own in­valu­able­ness, and who last won a Premier League ti­tle way, way back in 2015, said, “There are some man­agers that the last time they won a ti­tle was 10 years ago. Some of them, the last time they won a ti­tle was never. The last time I won a ti­tle was one year ago, not 10 years ago or 15 years ago, so if I have a lot to prove, imag­ine the others.”

He soon said, “I play against my­self,” and, “Maybe you are tired with me be­cause I started at such a young level.”

Guardi­ola, whose self-be­lief glows out of him as well, yet who ex­presses it less colour­fully, said, “That’s why I’m here. To prove my­self.” And: “Here is an­other test for my ca­reer. It would’ve been com­fort­able to stay where I was.”

Asked if City would be his last job, he said, “I don’t think so,” thereby committing re­al­ism.

While Guardi­ola is seen as bring­ing mo­ti­va­tion to a club need­ing mo­ti­va­tion, Mour­inho fig­ures to pro­vide more amuse­ments. Early this month, a mem­ber of the world play­ers’ union had to apol­o­gise to Mour­inho.

Mour­inho, af­ter all, had rel­e­gated the 32-year-old Ger­man star Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger to train with the un­der-23 team. In turn, De­jan Ste­fanovic had told the BBC that Mour­inho’s move con­sti­tuted “bul­ly­ing” and would war­rant an in­dict­ment plus three years in prison in Slove­nia. Mour­inho then said, at a news con­fer­ence, “What is hap­pen­ing is what is hap­pen­ing in ev­ery club in the world. Which is that the man­ager de­cides his squad and chooses a cer­tain num­ber of play­ers to face the sea­son, and that’s it.” It made for a fine start.

– The Wash­ing­ton Post CHI­NESE sports fans turned on the coun­try’s ath­letes and ad­min­is­tra­tors yes­ter­day as the Asian gi­ant lan­guished be­hind Bri­tain – once dis­missed as an “old de­clin­ing Em­pire” – in third place on the Olympic medal ta­ble in Rio.

In the early days of the games, Chi­nese me­dia sought to play down the ath­letes’ rel­a­tively poor show­ing, in­stead prais­ing their com­pet­i­tive spirit and ar­gu­ing that medals were not “the be-all and end-all of the Olympics”.

But by yes­ter­day even the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news ser­vice could not help show­ing a lit­tle an­noy­ance.

“Even #GBR has one more gold than China,” it wrote on a ver­i­fied Twit­ter feed, snap­ping that China’s gym­nasts had “suf­fered the worst Olympic flop” af­ter fail­ing to win any golds.

It was even blunter a day ear­lier in a post show­ing Bri­tain lead­ing the world’s most pop­u­lous coun­try in golds with the com­ment, “You kid­ding me? The coun­try which has never fin­ished above China is about to...” That post was rapidly deleted. But in a re­port on the gym­nas­tics re­sults it lamented that the “tra­di­tional pow­er­house” only took two bronzes in the team events, adding it was the first Olympics where China had failed to win an in­di­vid­ual gym­nas­tics medal.

The na­tion­al­is­tic state-run news­pa­per Global Times – which has pre­vi­ously dis­missed Bri­tain as an “old de­clin­ing em­pire” whose “na­tional strength can­not be placed in the same rank as China now” – tried to keep spir­its up yes­ter­day with an ar­ti­cle head­lined “Happy With­out Gold: Chi­nese pub­lic un­fazed by slug­gish medal win­ning”.

But the mood on­line was less up­beat.

Some fans com­plained the Team China ath­letes owed tax­pay­ers a bet­ter re­turn for the money in­vested in their train­ing, and crit­i­cised the ef­forts of failed medal­lists who said they were sim­ply happy to com­pete in Rio.

“The ath­letic skills ev­ery ath­lete pos­sess are half owned by the state,” wrote one user on the WeChat mes­sag­ing ser­vice cited by the Global Times.

On China’s Twit­ter-like Weibo mi­croblog ser­vice hun­dreds of com­menters de­bated an ar­ti­cle that claimed to re­veal “The Se­cret Be­hind Bri­tain’s China-beat­ing Gold Medals”, which it at­trib­uted to an am­bi­tious na­tional plan – im­plic­itly de­fend­ing China’s sys­tem of sports acad­e­mies.

One user com­mented, “Though I’m not in favour of gold medal-ism, not even be­ing in sec­ond place is still a bit sore.”

Other com­ments on­line were less po­lite. Some blasted Chi­nese ath­letes for blam­ing their lack of suc­cess on poor ref­er­ee­ing, while others were fu­ri­ous at China’s fail­ure to keep up with Bri­tain, which has a fraction of its pop­u­la­tion.

“Screw you [China], not only have you fallen be­hind in gold, but you’re ac­tu­ally soon about to lose the medal count to an EU-quit­ting king­dom,’ wrote one, adding, “The Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sports should com­mit harakiri and apol­o­gise.” –

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