The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola often reached boiling point during their time at Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively.
They had three seasons going toe-to-toe in La Liga, during which there was never a dull moment. Usually, it was Mourinho deploying the mind games, and more often than not Guardiola rebuttals were dismissive. Guardiola kept his dignity intact when countering ‘The Special One’s’ often-offensive onslaught against Barca.
Now the two will embark on an altogether different journey, though this time occupying the same city. After BBC journalist Simon Stone confirmed Mourinho had agree personal terms, and his lawyers had found ways to resolve the image right issues that were holding up the deal, Guardiola will have read the news with a wry smile as he welcomed his old foe to Manchester.
This journey though is one of rebuilding for both. However, Mourinho isn’t just rebuilding Manchester United – he’s also got to also his own brand. After being sacked by Chelsea and facing what seemed like a mutiny at Stamford Bridge, the Portuguese manager needs to prove to the world that he hasn’t lost what enamoured him to the Premier League in the first place. His charisma, wit and ability to get the media on side last season, vanished as quick as Chelsea’s title aspirations last season. And with United, he’s arguably has a bigger challenge on his hands.
Although they haven’t always been pitted against each other. Betfair’s football section of their website reported that they once had a good relationship. Journalist Stephen Tudor talked about their four years working together at Barcelona when Mourinho was assistant manager and Guardiola was still a player.
This seems a distant memory now. Ready to lock horns once more, this summer will be pivotal for both managers. City and United have a vast number of players reaching the twilight years of their careers, and the need for change has never been more in-demand.
Both have seen a slew of ex-players, current pros and managers welcome them to their positions. The Mirror reported that influential United legend Paul Scholes was overjoyed by the appointment and feels it’s exactly what the club needs to get back to the summit of European football. Though one concern he did have is that Mourinho retains Ryan Giggs, who is somewhat of an institution at Old Trafford.
The transition will be a little different for Guardiola, with Pellegrini learning about his fate well before the season ended, many of City’s players reacted as if theirs had been sealed too. Guardiola has a lot of ‘dead wood’ to get rid of at City. Players such as Yaya Toure, who he previously sold when he was Barca manager will inevitably leave, the underperforming Jesus Navas, the injury-prone Pablo Zabaleta and Fabio Delph could all be departing this summer.
Guardiola and Mourinho will be expecting to be backed in the transfer market to galvanize two of English football’s biggest clubs. With Antonio Conte (Chelsea), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool), Claudio Ranieri (Leicester) and Mauricio Pochettino (Spurs) also plying their trade in the Premier League, this season will be like no other.
Who’s your money on: the pragmatic Guardiola or will the psychological warfare of Mourinho prevail?