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