Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will resume their rivalry in the Manchester derby tonight, but much of the rancour between the pair appears to have evaporated as a result of the hurly burly of the Premier League.
When they were in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively the antagonism between both managers was so pronounced it even acquired its own nickname – The Disease. But it seems that the cure could be watching Chelsea canter to the title.
City and United meet at the Etihad on the sixth anniversary of a "monumental Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu" at a time when the two managers' rivalry was at its peak, notes Oliver Kay of The Times. A year earlier Mourinho had "claimed one of his most famous triumphs when his Inter Milan team survived a second-leg siege at the Nou Camp to reach the European Cup final".
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It throws the circumstances of the Manchester derby into relief as Guardiola and Mourinho fight it out for fourth place in the league. "The best that either of them can hope for at this point will be for their season ultimately to be regarded as a qualified success. Defeat tonight would add to a sense of disappointment," says Kay.
Both managers have found it hard to "reignite" their new clubs, says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph, and that has taken its toll. "While there is an argument to suggest the feuding at Real Madrid and Barcelona took so much out of them that there has been little appetite for a bloody rematch, the greater reality is that there is a marked difference between going toe-to-toe for the biggest titles and scrambling for Champions League qualification."
Both men have had so much on their plates this season that "there has not been much time or point indulging in the sort of verbal warfare that characterised their reigns in Spain".
Mourinho even appeared uncomfortable with the game's billing as part of Sky Sports hyperbolic "Heavyweight Week" in the build up to Joshua vs Klitschko on Saturday night. Guardiola meanwhile summed up the situation by commenting: "The team that fails less will go to the Champions League."
This was not the sort of analysis expected at the start of the season, says Ian Ladyman of Mailonline, "but it also felt about right".
"For City, this season is no longer about achievement. It is about meeting minimum requirements... For United, too, we are hardly in hallelujah territory. Their season has a slightly more satisfactory ring about it, given that they were coming from further back, have won the EFL Cup and are in the last four of the Europa League."
Indeed, a victory for United would leave Guardiola new territory, says Paul Wilson of The Guardian. "A win would be a sensational result for United, without necessarily spelling the end of City's challenge, yet Guardiola in particular can scarcely afford to follow Saturday's Wembley disappointment with derby defeat at the Etihad. The ignominy would be unbearable for a club that very publicly set their sights much higher and, while Guardiola deserves more than a season to prove himself, he would be under pressure as never before should the possibility of City finishing outside the top four raise its head."
However, with Liverpool looking shaky in third place and both Manchester clubs capable of catching them whatever transpires at the Etihad, a draw suits both sides.
It is United who face the biggest test, with Paul Pogba the latest addition to a lengthening injury list. He joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Juan Mata, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling on the sidelines with muscle fatigue.
City on the other hand could receive an unexpected boost if Gabriel Jesus returns from what was widely thought to be a season-ending foot injury.
Life in Manchester a 'bit of a disaster', says Mourinho
26 October 2016
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has admitted that he is finding life difficult as he struggles to adapt to living in a hotel suite in Manchester's city centre, miles away from his family in London.
The Portuguese football boss, who has been holed up at the Lowry Hotel since arriving at Old Trafford five months ago, has to contend with a posse of photographers stationed outside the hotel doors. He describes the situation as "a bit of a disaster".
"I just want to cross the bridge and go to a restaurant. I can't, so it is really bad. But I have my apps and I can ask for food to also be delivered, which I do sometimes.
His situation is in sharp contrast to that of Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City boss, who has moved into a city centre apartment with his wife Cristina and their three children, says the Daily Mail.
"It has raised questions about why United would allow a manager earning £12m-a-year not to make a firmer commitment to the club, especially as Mourinho has not stayed with any of his six previous teams for much longer than three years," says the Mail. "However, it is understood that United were aware of the situation before offering Mourinho the job and accept that he is reluctant to uproot his children from their lives in London."
Man Utd vs Man City: Mourinho and Guardiola prepare for war
The Premier League hype machine is up and running ahead of the biggest game of the season so far, and possibly the whole campaign, as Manchester City prepare to face Manchester United at Old Trafford this Saturday (kick-off is at 12.30).
The game, which will pit Pep Guardiola against Jose Mourinho for the first time in the Premier League, transfers to Manchester the bitter rivalry forged during their time in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain.
"The United-City duel arrives without the political intensity of the Clasico, but a league which feeds on personality clashes was never going to pass up the chance to frame Saturday's protagonists as two warring princes who moved their battleground to England," says Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph.
Hayward argues that the two have more in common than many suppose. "Mourinho is probably right to resent the fawning over Guardiola. It pains him to see City's manager portrayed as the artist to Mourinho's artisan... More than once Mourinho has inferred that Guardiola is every bit as educated in the dark realities of power, just as unsentimental when he needs to be. The evidence supports the theory."
The two men share one characteristic – "constructive ruthlessness". The trait has been on show this summer while they refashioned their sides for the current campaign.
Their lack of restraint with their chequebooks has only added spice to the occasion.
"In the land where cash is king, prepare for the ultimate demonstration of the Premier League's wealth and power," says Oliver Kay of The Times. "For all the inevitable focus on the geniuses in direct conflict in the respective dugouts, the one record that Saturday's Manchester derby is certain to break is for the two most expensive starting line-ups, which at a total of just under £600m are set to make it the most expensive match in history."
That is likely to be the case even though some big names are missing. Sergio Aguero is banned and City new boys Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan will be missing through injury. For United Henrikh Mkhitaryan will also be absent.
"Still, though, the starting line-ups include six of the 12 most expensive signings recorded in England: Pogba, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial for United, and Kevin De Bruyne, Stones and Raheem Sterling for City. The big question, really, is about just how good these two teams – and, to an extent, just how good these individual players – are."
With the world watching, the pressure will be on the two managers and the galaxy of stars to produce a spectacle that is worth seeing, particularly after comments from former United great Paul Scholes that he would rather watch non-league than Premier League football.
In an extract from his book, published by The Guardian, Scholes questions the quality on offer in the English game.
"In the Premier League in the last two years, have I really seen a game of high quality? A game that I've thought: 'Wow!' It's difficult to think of any," he writes. "It's all about money and sponsorship in England these days rather than football, rather than entertainment... I know there is pressure on managers, but styles of play become so negative because managers are frightened of losing their jobs."
Neither Mourinho nor Guardiola is in any danger, and with the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin De Bruyne on show the game offers the Premier League the opportunity to refute Scholes's assertion.
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