The champagne was on ice when Man City romped to a 2-0 lead at half-time against their arch rivals Man United, in a game they needed to win to seal the title. Goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan in a matter of five minutes meant that the game only seemed to be going in one direction. Guardiola fielded a team without the likes of Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne, with one eye on the Champions League quarter-final second leg on Tuesday.
Paul Pogba though, had no intentions of letting City seal the deal comfortably. With his hair ironically died light blue, he came out with a different venom and purpose in the second half, along with the rest of his team. The Frenchman pulled one back on 53 minutes, coolly slotting home to run on to a Ander Herrera chest-down. Ninety-seven seconds later, it was 2-2. Pogba played to ball to Alexis Sanchez on the right before making a darting run into the box for the Chilean to find. The former Arsenal man’s ball was inch-perfect, as was the midfielder’s powerful header in the corner. The Etihad Stadium was left absolutely shell-shocked, as their team certainly lost all its momentum. In the 69th minute, the unbelievable comeback was complete, as Sanchez’s delightful free-kick was smashed home by Chris Smalling. The entire City team switched off, and the central defender found himself unmarked 6 yards out. De Bruyne and Aguero came on soon thereafter, but Mourinho teams just don’t throw leads away, do they?
Guardiola’s tactics come under question
Mourinho came under a lot of criticism for his approach to the game against Liverpool back in October, when The Red Devils came away from Anfield with a 0-0 draw. In all honesty though, that was hardly “parking the bus”. The Portuguese often sets up in away games to have defensive organization and positional discipline in every position, and playing off the counter. Romelu Lukaku had a poor game in terms of holding up the ball, and hence those tactics didn’t work to a tee. Despite that, United never looked in too much trouble even though Liverpool dominated possession. Once in the final third, Jurgen Klopp’s men were unable to get through and fashion goalscoring opportunities of note.
Guardiola, on his two trips to Anfield, set up to play attacking football, and lost both times. The Reds have picked City off with a high pressing game, and hit them with blistering pace. The league game in February, which ended 4-3, wasn’t that significant in the title race despite it being City’s first and only loss in the competition under yesterday. However, the 3-0 thrashing in the Champions League quarter-final first leg last week was much more telling. The question is: would Mourinho have lost a tie in the first leg itself? It has happened in the past, but it’s still an unlikely occurrence.
Guardiola and Mourinho have been two of Europe’s most successful coaches in the last decade. Their association dates back to the late 90’s at Barcelona, when the Spaniard was a player and the Portuguese a coach for the Catalan giants. Following a separation of almost 10 years, their rivalry was born in La Liga, when Mourinho took charge at Real Madrid. Guardiola, of course, was manager at his boyhood club Barcelona. In 2012, Madrid broke Barca’s dominance by winning La Liga, and Guardiola took a sabbatical after missing out on the Champions League as well. Now, they have faced off again in England. After a barren opening season for both last year, City are set to become Premier League champions in dominant fashion this season. Even though United won yesterday’s battle, the war has long been lost for The Red Devils.
There is no doubt that Mourinho will come hard at City next season. United haven’t won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure back in 2013, and City will continue to rule the land for the foreseeable future if allowed to do so. The investments at the Etihad will not stop, and Guardiola is only going to keep improving his side. At the moment, he does very much have the upper hand on proceedings, despite yesterday’s result. In the build-up to the game, the Spaniard made a surprising claim that agent Mino Raiola had offered both Pogba and then-United player Henrikh Mkhitaryan to City, as reported here in The Guardian. Pogba, who lost has lost both his form and his first-team place with United, has been rumored to be on the lookout for a move, and Guardiola’s comments add further fuel to the fire. Whether this well and truly happened, or is just mind games, we might never truly know.
“You’ve still got it…(clap clap, clap clap clap)”
Despite their contrasting styles the influence that both these managers have had on the game can’t be discounted either. Mourinho revolutionalised football in in England by employing the 4-3-3 at Chelsea, and dominating the Premier League. Guardiola pioneered tiki-taka football during his time at Barcelona, thereby also laying the foundation for the Spanish national team’s dominance between 2008 and 2012.
With City winning the league this season, they will both have won league titles in three of the top European leagues. Mourinho, of course, has also won it with Porto in Portugal. They also have 2 Champions League titles each. Even though the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte have come up as top modern managers in the last few years, Guardiola and Mourinho have proven this season that they are still stalwarts in their own right.