Uneasy truce can erupt at any time
WHEN Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho arrived in Manchester in the summer of 2016, the city prepared for a rekindling of the spiteful war of words that had characterised their time together in Spain.
Things got ugly quickly when Mourinho took over at Real Madrid in 2010 and made it his immediate priority to dethrone Guardiola and Barcelona.
Nothing was off limits. There would be no verbal grenade not worth throwing in the pursuit of domestic and European glory.
As the managers swapped insults, the Clasicos became even more fierce affairs.
The fixtures, including a run of four games in just 18 days in 2012, were unwatchable at times as the desire for victory spilled over into gamesmanship and outright cheating. But you still couldn’t take your eyes off the games – or the press conferences.
So when Mourinho was appointed United boss in late May 2016, with Guardiola already confirmed as City’s new supremo from July 1, Manchester braced itself for the recommencement of battle.
In the end, we’ve had a thawing of relations.
For Mourinho, the reason was clear. While in Spain the season essentially boiled down to a battle of Barca v Real, with the other 18 La Liga sides more often than not making up the numbers – at least in the time of Mourinho and Guardiola’s domination when it would take a century of points to win the title – that wasn’t the case in the Premier League.
“In a situation like this (Spain), individual fights make sense because they can influence things,” Mourinho said of the battles in La Liga.
“In the Premier League, if I focus on him and Manchester City, and he on me and Manchester United, someone else is going to win the league.”
But the previous insults had become so vicious, so personal, that it always felt like an uneasy truce, and perhaps it is City’s fly-on-the-wall All or Nothing documentary that will relight the blue touch paper of this simmering feud.
Mourinho was certainly unimpressed with how he was portrayed in the eightpart show, with his ‘park the bus’ tactics referenced by narrator Ben Kingsley, and the Old Trafford manager accused City of lacking class.
“I haven’t seen it, but I know a few things about the movie. My reaction is if you are a rich club you can buy top players, but you cannot buy class. That is my first reaction,” said Mourinho.
“But if they send me one of the shirts when we played there, the shirts that were saying ‘We did it on Derby Day,’ if they send me one of these shirts, I will give up about royalties,” he added.
That was Mourinho referencing United’s comeback win at the Etihad in April, when City needed three points to claim the title. They led 2-0 at half-time before Jose’s team ruined the party with three second-half goals.
Guardiola defended City’s role in the documentary and said it ‘was not our intention’ to be disrespectful.
But Mourinho isn’t the type to forgive and forget. Don’t be surprised if this managerial rivalry suddenly rediscovers some of the edge that was lost on the journey from Spain to Manchester.
There is little love lost between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho