There’s a storm brewing in Manchester. “No change there then” some would say, given the North-west city’s predilection for rain, drizzle and grey skies.
Warmer air moving in from the south, via Germany is set to mix with a lingering cold front making for periods of turbulence – unpredictable but nevertheless exciting. Strong winds and high pressure should be expected whilst lightning, thunder and the occasional blizzard will feature intermittently.
A change to the landscape is inevitable, and residents should buckle in for the ride, hunker down and enjoy the spectacle. For if, as expected, Jose Mourinho ends up in charge of Manchester United, following the dull, damp period at Old Trafford under van Gaal, there could follow one of the greatest rivalries and compelling periods in the cities footballing history.
‘Pep’ is already confirmed across the way at City, charged with taking the team of superstars with potential and making them into world beaters. And it seems more than likely that his old foe from their time in Spain will move in next door, turning his music up full blast and not letting the Spaniard settle into his new pair of slippers.
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Yes, the cool, calm blue of City under Guardiola will come face to face with the devilish charms of Mr Mourinho, giving the Premier League a storyline so gripping it would grace any bestseller list and is likely to become one of the most fascinating chapters in the top-flight of English football. Well at least since the days of the great Fergie/Wenger rivalry during the early to mid 2000’s – still probably the best in Premier League folklore.
The dynamic is different of course, both managers arriving at new clubs in the same city, but the results should be no less compelling. Back then, Sir Alex’s dynasty at Old Trafford was in full swing, the Scot looking on as the new “intellectual” arrived from Japanese football of all places, throwing down a cerebral challenge to the Manchester United regime that had gone largely unhindered in it’s quest for silverware.
What followed for the preceding decade or so was a confrontation and relationship that dominated the Premier League landscape, the two managers and their respective sides trading blow after blow in their efforts for domestic supremacy.
Clashes between United and Arsenal during that period were filled with drama and contempt, both on and off the pitch. Who could forget the look on Martin Keown’s face following a Ruud van Nistlerooy penalty miss, or the alleged slice of pizza that Cesc Fabregas threw at Sir Alex in the tunnel following defeat at Old Trafford and end to their unbeaten run.
The two managers oversaw one of the greatest periods in Premier League history, at the helm of two of England’s biggest clubs. The sides battled each other, occupying the top two spots in the Premier League for six straight seasons, until Abramovich’s money changed things again.
The managers traded blows in press conferences, the strength and venom in Ferguson’s outbursts consistent with the threat he felt from a genuine rival to both his and Manchester United’s supremacy. Wenger often gave as good as he got though, unafraid of Ferguson’s wrath and mind-games. Labelling the Frenchman as a “disgrace” following ‘Pizzagate’, Wenger replied: “He has lost all sense of reality. He is going out looking for a confrontation, then asking the person he is confronting to apologise.”
Similar tete a tete’s will no doubt ensue should Mourinho adopt Manchester as his new home, much as Pep will. The thinking man of continental football, Guardiola’s manner will come in stark contrast to Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager akin to Ferguson in his preference for a fight, creating conflict for conflicts sake, hoping to eat away at his rivals by poking and prodding them till they react.
It may not manifest itself in physical poking, as it did to Tito Vilanova’s eye, the coach an assistant manager to Guardiola at the time, but there are sure to be fireworks. The flare-up’s between Real Madrid & Barcelona rarely need a catalyst, but the Portuguese boss used all his antagonistic, siege-like tactics to fan the flames of contempt between the two European giant’s when in charge of Los Blancos
Expect much of the same should he get the job at Old Trafford in the summer. The pressure on Guardiola will be intense enough as it is, as he attempts to transfer his footballing philosophies into the English game and onto Manchester City.
But should Jose find his way to Old Trafford – as many would expect – there is no doubting Guardiola’s job just got that little bit tougher. Now wouldn’t that be a poke in the eye?