Mourinho vs Guardiola: From El Clasico to Manchester Derby

12 September 2016 -


As Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho went to battle at Old Trafford on Saturday, the managerial dual drew more attention from the millions of TV viewers, and the world’s media, than any of the star-studded players on the pitch in Manchester

Jermaine Haughton

As Manchester City held onto their 2-1 lead against Manchester United at Old Trafford, Pep Guardiola drew first blood against long-time rival Jose Mourinho in a feud that can be traced across Europe, from Spain to England.

Tom vs. Jerry, Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, Adidas vs. Puma – great rivalries often involve equally excellent competitors, from differing backgrounds who end up very familiar with each other as they battle for supremacy at the top of their field.

For Mourinho and Guardiola, this is no different.

The duo initially started their relationship on the same side. Mourinho and Guardiola worked together at Barcelona between 1996-2000, when the relatively unknown Mourinho was a translator-turned-coach and Guardiola was a renowned player; the captain of his hometown club.

Since that time, the pair have won a combined 43 major trophies, with each having a brace of Champions League trophies, as well as titles and cups in Italy, Spain, Germany and England.

In a typically chess-like tactical match-up, the first meeting between Guardiola’s Barcelona and Mourinho’s Inter Milan led to a 0-0 draw in a Champions League group game at the San Siro in 2009. In the return group fixture, a Xavi-inspired attack saw the Spanish side win a one-sided contest 2-0 at the Nou Camp.

However, Mourinho was to have the last laugh, as the sides met again in the semi-finals of the club competition later that season, with Inter emerging victorious in two controversial, fractured and tense games – showing the opening glimpses of the animosity that was set to come between the two bosses.

The rivalry reached boiling point from 2010, when Mourinho was appointed Real Madrid boss, Barcelona’s historic arch-enemies.

During the next two seasons, as the pair vied for domestic and European honours, their relationship turned ugly – with controversial comments, team and staff scuffles and a constant war of words in the Spanish media.

Management styles

Those who have played for either manager have eulogised their will to win. Despite this similarity, however, Mourinho and Guardiola have a distinctly different type of management style - both on the pitch and in the dressing room.

From his days as Porto chief to his arrival in England, Mourinho, the self-proclaimed 'Special One', has never been shy of the cameras, often using his large personality, witty quotes and ability to court controversy to deflect media and supporter pressure from his players.

Apart from his exceptional tactical nous and coaching ability, Mourinho’s most famous skill has been to use human psychology to his favour – unsettling opposition bosses and inspiring his team to success.

Perhaps a trait learnt from another great manager who found fame in the red half of Manchester, Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho has frequently implemented a ‘siege mentality’ by creating divisions between himself, his players and the supporters with anyone else to unite his club.

“When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started,” Mourinho once stated.

From the stinging goading of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as a “specialist in failure” to the taunts of now England manager Sam Allardyce’s “19th century football” while the Dudley-native was West Ham United boss – Mourinho has always known the power of his own words.

Understanding that his (and other) players will be affected by every word he says, Mourinho is a capable communicator who uses negative or positive comments to speak and act in a way that builds morale, not deflates it, 100% of the time.

“From here, each practice, each game, each minute of your social life must centre on the aim of being champions,” Mourinho wrote to his players before meeting them at Chelsea.

Madrid-based football writer Thore Haugstad said: “Such commitment goes beyond professionalism; in fact it nearly eclipses the players’ reality.”

By comparison, Pep Guardiola is often depicted as the steely, assured thinker. Having experienced glory both as a player and a manager, the Spaniard has achieved an almost impeccable rise through one of the most competitive sports in the world.

As often as Mourinho’s managerial style is juxtaposed alongside the vast achievements and larger-than-life personalities of Sir Alex and the iconic former Nottingham Forest and Derby County boss Brian Clough, Guardiola often draws similarities with Barcelona predecessor and Dutch football legend Johann Cryuff and current Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti for his calm, philosophical style.

Guardiola’s success provides a reminder of importance of accountability and being willing to learn as a manager.

A stickler for finding marginal gains and improvements wherever he can, Guardiola has shown a fearlessness in ripping up the football consensus on formations, coaches and players to push the boundaries of success for the collective.

At times, he has even ousted popular players, such as England number one goalkeeper Joe Hart, or age-old systems for the sake of the team winning more effectively.

From the beginning of his illustrious career with Barcelona, he was both Guardiola the player and Guardiola the student - even quizzing Ronald Koeman about Ajax’s youth academy, their principles and their philosophy.

At the heart of Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ in the 1990s, Guardiola taught himself the fundamentals and intricacies of both the defensive and attacking part of the game, particularly in regards of possession of the football.

Another managerial asset of Guardiola is his presence as a disciplinarian. Upon signing as Barcelona manager in 2008, ‘Pep’ wasted no little time in making it clear to the team of established world class players that they were not working hard enough, and had to exceed it by at least twice as much.

A visionary much-like Mourinho, Guardiola set out a vision for Barcelona that was clear, simple and deadly when executed correctly. “I don’t want you all trying to dribble like Leo Messi – pass it, pass it and pass it again,” he told the team. “Pass precisely, move well, pass again, pass, pass, and pass.

“I want every move to be smart, every pass accurate – that’s how we make the difference from the rest of the teams, that’s all I want to see,” according to Graham Hunter’s book, Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World.

Reflecting the animosity between the two, Mourinho has been able to breach the calm exterior of Guardiola on several occasions. Four days after Barcelona had all-but assured their place as Champions in 2011 after a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner against Barcelona to win the Spanish cup.

After the game Guardiola sparked a war of words by suggesting an error by the referee and his officials.

"Up until now there was a very small group of coaches who didn't talk about referees and a larger group who did," responded Mourinho. "Now, with Pep's comments, we have started a new era with a third group, featuring only one person, a man who criticises [the referee] when he makes good decisions. This is completely new to me."

Guardiola sharply replied: "As senor Mourinho has called me Pep, I'm going to call him Jose," he said in his pre-match press conference. "Tomorrow at 8.45pm we will face each other on the pitch. Off the pitch he's won. He's been winning off the pitch all season. Let them give him a Champions League for it so he can enjoy it and take it home. In the press room he is 'el p*** jefe' (the ******* boss) and the one who knows more than everyone else."

While the Premier League hasn’t witnessed such spats from the pair yet, as the football season heats up, it’s a safe bet that there will be more clashes between these two great managers.

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