On Saturday, arch rivals Manchester United and Manchester City will face each other at Old Trafford. The two clubs from England’s industrial town have given some of the best moments in Premier League history. Be it the Paul Scholes header in injury time in 2010 or Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick in 2011 or Manchester City destroying United with a 6-1 win the same year; almost every match between the two sides has given something to remember.
The first derby game in 2016 season promises to be no less. And it brings in added element to the mix – the managers.
United’s Jose Mourinho will once again square paths with City’s Pep Guardiola in the clash. The two managers will renew their bitter rivalry after a gap of three years. The last time they were on the opposing benches was in the UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, won by Guardiola’s side on penalties 2-2 (4-5).
“The best team clearly lost,” Mourinho said after the match. “They just scored one more penalty,” he added.
Former ‘friends’ turned foes Guardiola and Mourinho initially started off as ‘allies’ in Barcelona. In 1997 when Sir Bobby Robson was managing Barcelona, Guardiola was the star midfielder, while Mourinho was a member of the Robson’s staff – his interpreter with the Catalan club.
“We were close,” Mourinho said in a television interview.
It is believed that bitterness between the two stemmed out of Mourinho’s inherent desire to manage Barca in 2008 while the board opted to go with Pep. Marc Ingla, former Barcelona director, said in Graham Hunter’s book ‘Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World’, “Mourinho is a bit poisoned by the fact he was rejected…”
The rivalry took shape when they clashed against each other in the 2009-2010 Champions League. Mourinho’s Inter Milan defeated Guardiola’s Barcelona on aggregate (3-1) to reach the Final. Controversy blew up when Pep blamed referee’s decisions in the game for his loss. The footage of Mourinho running around at Camp Nou after beating Barcelona with his finger pointing up became one of the most iconic celebrations in football history.
But, the rivalry had just begun. Next year Mourinho took the job at Barcelona’s bitter enemies Real Madrid. Mourinho’s Real Madrid defeated Guardiola’s Barcelona to clinch Copa Del Rey trophy after 18 years. Guardiola again blamed the referee for the game, for which Mourinho mocked the Spanish manager.
“…a man who criticises (the referee) when he makes good decisions,” Mourinho said about Guardiola.
Guardiola retorted: “He has won off the pitch. Let him get a Champions League trophy for it so he can be happy.”
Later in 2010-11 season, Barcelona went on to defeat Real Madrid in UCL semi-final game, which infuriated Mourinho and he said that Guardiola’s side took advantage of bad decisions made by referee. “If he wins Champion’s league this year, it will be with the scandal of Bernabeu.”
Things turned really ugly in the 2011-12 pre-season clash in the Spanish Super Cup, when Barcelona defeated Real. Mourinho poked Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye to add to the already on-going squirmish between the players, which led to an on-field melee.
Mourinho pointed fingers at Barcelona players’ lack of sportsman spirit: “…We intended to play like men and not fall on the ground at the slightest touch. I have been taught to play like a man…”
Guardiola, after losing the la Liga trophy to Real that season, decided to go on a sabbatical. He then took on the job at Bayern Munich to replace Jupp Heynckes.
The head-to-head record between the two managers hinges towards Guardiola. Out of 16 meetings, Guardiola has won 7 times, while Mourinho has registered only 3 wins, with 6 matches ending in a draw.
What to expect from the Derby
Both the managers have unique style of game play. While Guardiola likes to play the game on front foot, using defenders as full backs, Mourinho mostly likes to switch positions with a defensive strategy – which seems to be changing at Manchester United. The strategies for both the managers have worked so far, with each of them winning their 3 league matches.
Guardiola, without Sergio Aguero will most likely use Kelechi Iheanacho in the forward position. It is City’s midfield which Mourinho would worry about. With players like Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nolito for Guardiola’s side, Mourinho will look to use his midfielders to defend and stop the forward runs.
Another ace up Mourinho’s sleeve is striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has never seen eye-to-eye with Pep Guardiola ever since their Swede had his ego bruised when part of Barcelona. The perfect example of it came last November when the big striker told CNN, “As a coach he was fantastic,” Ibrahimovic said. “As a person I’ve no comments about that, that’s something else. He’s not a man, there’s nothing more to say.”
No matter what the result, the Manchester derby on Saturday is likely to write another chapter in the Guardiola vs Mourinho rivalry.