Jose v Pep: Connected but contrasting

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have a shared history and now share a city. However, they couldn't be more different on and off the field.

Mourinho and Guardiola

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola Source: Getty Images

On one side we have Manchester United manager Mourinho and at the other end we have Manchester City boss Guardiola.

The match is fascinating for the journey these two greats have undertaken, for their shared history and for the alchemy that happens when they come together.

Light and dark clashing, who knows what will be created?

That’s the beauty of Mourinho - uncertainty. With most coaches you know what you are going to get and Guardiola is one of these.

Well mannered, respectful of opponents, focused on his own team, you get matches and a great football team but relatively little that is not anticipated - Guardiola seems to tolerate the spotlight rather than love it and his aversion to controversy reflects this.

Mourinho, though, is singularly unpredictable. As far as he is concerned, anything that supports winning football matches is permissible. Ethics, rules, values, even those universally seen as fundamental to sport, are of no consequence and can be broken if that leads to a win.

This is what makes him dangerous to someone like Guardiola who, above all, values control - of emotions, of the game, of the message.

Mourinho pushes him to places he would never otherwise go, and that’s what makes it great for us, because anything can happen.

No doubt, their shared history at Barcelona has a lot to do with it, where one is a club great, the other with an ego incapable of dealing with rejection at Barca as a coach and the subsequent demonisation that came with it.

Guardiola represents what Mourinho was not able to achieve both as a player and coach - globally renowned for changing the game for the better, universally loved by one of the world’s great clubs as an iconic player.

When Mourinho came up against his former employers at the helm of Real Madrid all hell broke loose such was his determination to prove his worth.

Eye gouges, dirty tactics, conspiracy theories against UEFA and referees, urging his players to hate the enemy, to create a separation even within the Spanish National team, anything.

Great drama as only Mourinho can create. You don’t have to love, or even accept his football or his values (or lack of), to accept that he is one of history’s great coaches and leaders. A master. Particularly in the psychological aspect.

And here is the interest when these two meet again.

Mourinho so pushed Guardiola that he struck out publicly in a press conference with expletives in a way he never did before, and likely would never again, except for Mourinho. Because, knowing him, Jose can push and provoke, prod and find the weak points.

It was fascinating to watch and painted a dramatic background to one of the great, historic rivalries in the game between Madrid and Barca.

In the end though both men were consumed. Mourinho by the atmosphere of spite and recrimination he created to win and Guardiola by the constant provocation, insinuation and emotional intensity.

Now, they’re back. After several years away from each other, there is a sense the two belong together, competing for supremacy, and that we will be the winners.

So much is sterile these days, few personalities to really buck the trend and create the unexpected but, when Guardiola and Mourinho meet, sparks fly.

I can’t wait.

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4 min read
Published 6 September 2016 at 3:36pm
By Craig Foster