Since Pep Guardiola's appointment as head coach at Barcelona in 2008, the mercurial coach has found he has regularly locked horns with his fierce managerial rival - the self proclaimed 'Special One' Jose Mourinho - whether domestically or in European competition. 

By 90Min
December 11, 2017

Since Pep Guardiola's appointment as head coach at Barcelona in 2008, the mercurial coach has found he has regularly locked horns with his fierce managerial rival - the self proclaimed 'Special One' Jose Mourinho - whether domestically or in European competition. 

However, as in many previous contests the Portuguese coach failed once again to defeat the charismatic Spaniard. So is there in fact a serious rivalry between the pair or is it all superficial hype due to the gaping professional chasm between them? 

On Sunday lunchtime, the long awaited Manchester derby took place at a wintry Old Trafford - the first of the season - but one pivotal to the Premier League title race even this early in the season. 

By the final whistle, Mourinho's United had no answer to their audacious city neighbours as they found themselves a distant second in a two horse race. 

In fact, the Red Devil boss relentlessly tried to reduce all discussion about his team’s indisputably deserved 2-1 defeat to a contentious penalty claim.

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Guardiola's City have started the new season with a record 14 consecutive league victories and playing a brand of football that oozes swagger and confidence. United have similarly spent a copious amount of money on improving their squad, but play a style that is agricultural in comparison and negative in its approach. 

In fact, Mourinho has now lost 12 of his last 25 matches in the Premier League, but does this statistic alone confirm a glaring suspicion - can you no longer take Mourinho’s greatness for granted?

This is a managerial rivalry that has probably been more discussed than any other in English football and that includes the long running feuds in recent history between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger or even the shared animosity between Don Revie and Brian Clough. 

However, this relationship rift seems to go much deeper because of their philosophical difference - the “football theory” that Mourinho talks about does sometimes offer deeper explanations about the football that is actually practised.

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It cannot be argued that when a team, especially an away opponent, has 65-70% possession it is a reflection of a side that wants to play football in the right manner and more importantly to exert their superiority on their adversary through total dominance. 

The approach of each side clearly highlights the footballing philosophy of the two managers and the focus of what each considers important. 

First of all, it was impossible not to wonder whether the high level of City possession was a subtle slight at Mourinho’s reported belief - if not outright football philosophy - that to possess the ball is more damaging because it will just lead to more mistakes. 

The implication of course is that one way is the football of fear and the other is the football of bravery.

Then there is the connected reason of Guardiola’s side playing to certain “morality”. The City boss was effectively echoing football arguments of the past put forward by patriarchs of the sport like John Giles and Bill Shankly, that the real element to the game is a “moral courage”; to have the fearlessness to believe in what you are trying to create and achieve, to take the ball on, to positively express yourself and City have done that with conviction under Guardiola's guidance particularly this season. 

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Let's not forget that City and United have broadly similar resources, however, the ruthless reality is that only one club and manager is concerned in creating a structure that looks to enhance his players’ offensive weaponry and actually coach them to be a collectively higher-quality attacking force. His players possess the courage to build a somewhat risky proactive approach that does require some faith that they all trust and believe in. 

The other is more interested in being pragmatic, in playing the percentages rather than going at everything 100%. Safety first and stay in the game. Frustrate your opponent and be clinical when the opportunity arises. 

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This match absolutely bellowed these aspects and these are the questions Mourinho should really be addressing rather than resorting to a contentious penalty claim being the real difference between the two sides. 

There was instead some more irony, as he remarkably bemoaned the lack of beauty in City’s goals rather than their clinical efficiency, which he would normally embrace and appreciate. 

However, when you have a managerial record against an opponent that reads in eighteen  meetings, in seven seasons over five competitions that you only have a win percentage that equates to just 17% (a total of three wins) something needs to change and evolve. 

If anything the result and performance on Sunday is more a reflection of an increasingly one-sided managerial rivalry that seems no closer to being a seriously genuine contest between two proud managers that see finishing second as failure.  

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