Is Manchester big enough for the both of them?
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.” –