An uneasy calm precedes Guardiola and Mourinho’s upcoming Manchester derby
Broadly speaking, in the world of football, there are three types of league matches that capture the imagination of supporters and neutrals. The first is when the denial of three points is as significant as the three gained. This is usually the case when the two teams find themselves at the two extreme ends of the league table.
The second is when there is genuine hostility, if not outright hatred, between the two clubs’ supporters, usually in the case of derbies.
The third is one where there is a history of hostility between the two managers.
This year, football aficionados are likely to be treated to two matches where the above three phenomenons combine when José Mourinho’s Manchester United take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The history of the relationship dates back the mid-90s, when Mourinho, in the employ of Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal as a translator, maintained a close albeit professional relationship with the young midfielder.
And, 15 years later, they would be in direct opposition to each other when Mourinho was appointed by Real Madrid with the express brief of ending the two-season winning streak of Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Their first on-field meeting was a significant one: Barcelona’s famous 5-0 battering of Los Blancos, the shocking result no doubt the catalyst for the nature of the relationship.
What initially appeared to be no more than a heated rivalry that would most likely only play out on the pitch, escalated into a fullblown war of words.
During a particularly heated series of El Clásicos at the end of April 2011 – four in the space of three weeks – came a number of allegations of refereeing bias on the part of both teams, although Mourinho could be regarded as the most vocal of the two.
On the one occasion when Guardiola questioned a controversial refereeing decision – one that arguably cost his side the Copa del Rey – Mourinho launched a counter-attack, pointing out the hypocrisy of his opposite number.
Guardiola, in turn, broke out of his ordinarily phlegmatic character on the eve of the Champions League semifinal – the third of the four El Clásico matches – to deliver a now-famous rant at the expense of Mourinho.
“In this [press] room, he is the puto jefe, the puto amo – the f***ing boss, the f***ing master,” he said.
“And I don’t want to compete with him for a moment.”
Despite the ill temper that surrounded this remarkable series of matches, the most significant moment of the fierce rivalry came in August that year, during the second leg of the Supercopa.
A vicious tackle by Madrid’s Marcelo on new Barcelona signing Cesc Fàbregas prompted a mass brawl, during which Mourinho could be seen gouging the eyes of Barca assistant coach Tito Vilanova.
Despite this incident, the 2011/12 season did not deliver a similar level of aggression between the two Spanish giants and their managers, but the scene was set for a rivalry that would always be likely to reignite.
Mourinho made a point of saying that he would do nothing to antagonise Guardiola, saying that doing so in a league as competitive as the Premier League would only benefit other teams challenging for the title.
Guardiola has remained characteristically quiet on the topic.
The football purist may hope that this ceasefire becomes a lasting truce, but those seeking drama could well be in for an entertaining season.
Their first meeting of a Manchester derby will come on September 10 at Old Trafford.
TEAMtalk Media –
ASTUTE Pep Guardiola
SHORT FUSE José Mourinho
ASSET Mario Booysen proved himself at SuperSport