Manchester United and Manchester City landed two of the biggest managers in the game this summer. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will resume their battle in the Premier League and ESPN FC is keeping a close eye on them.
Our correspondents Arindam Rej (United) and Jonathan Smith (City) bring us the latest weekly look at what both men have been saying.
Weekend match expectations
JS: Tottenham will be the biggest test of Guardiola’s reign so far as he comes up against a side that can match Manchester City’s work rate and quality. Celtic showed plenty of hard work and desire in the Champions League 3-3 draw in midweek to rattle City and end their perfect start to the season.
Spurs will have have a similar energy but won’t be as open at the back as the Scottish champions. So many City fans may be happy to take a point from White Hart Lane but Guardiola will, as ever, play for a win, which would extend City’s lead at the top of the table going into the international break.
AR: Manchester United are red-hot favourites to overcome Stoke City, despite what Mourinho has said about the struggling Midlands club being in a false lowly position in the Premier League table. A fresh Ander Herrera can add more impetus to the United team going forward, having been rested on Thursday night when his colleagues won 1-0 against Zorya Luhansk. Stoke have been leaking goals in the league — conceding four in a match on three occasions already this season while repeatedly failing to score more than one goal in a game.
Best news conference quote
JS: “I don’t think [Mauricio Pochettino] is one of the best managers in England, he’s one of the best football managers in the world.
“He’s aggressive without the ball and has a lot of quality with his players. Last season they were there until the last two or three games with the chance to be champions. So still this year they are playing in a high, high level. I am looking forward to going to White Hart Lane for the first time in my life as well.”
AR: “Stoke is another poisoned gift. Stoke is not what the table says — that’s not Stoke’s position.”
Biggest current issue to solve
JS: Guardiola has always gone on the attack this season but he may think the best way to get all three points is to take a more pragmatic approach. With Nolito banned and Kevin De Bruyne missing through injury, Ilkay Gundogan is expected to start. But the German international has only just returned from his serious knee injury and the City boss may be tempted to bring in a more defence-minded midfielder in Fernando to rest Gundogan and also to offer more protection in the centre of midfield.
AR: Is Luke Shaw ready for a return to the first team after his recent absence and with Daley Blind having impressively covered for him? That is a dilemma for Mourinho, whose attitude towards Shaw seems to have changed. In the earliest days of Mourinho’s reign at United, the manager was gushing with his praise of the Englishman, but he singled out the left-back for criticism after the defeat at Watford. Shaw missed training in midweek with an illness, according to Mourinho, but the player is expected to be in consideration again to face Stoke.
JS: The Champions League draw in Glasgow has given a dose of reality after a dream opening two months of the season. City were expected to brush aside an unrated Celtic side but were pushed out of their stride by a passionate team driven on by a raucous Parkhead crowd.
Swansea almost shocked Guardiola’s side last weekend until the game changed on a controversial penalty that sent City on their way to a 3-1 win to make it a perfect 10 opening games.
City have lost some of the veneer of invincibility and the last week has shown that there is plenty of hard work ahead if they are to become the great side that Guardiola wants.
Fan rating: 9/10
AR: The first-half demolition of Leicester City on Saturday was the perfect soothing antidote after the headache of three successive defeats and an unconvincing win over Northampton. It gave fans a taste of some scintillating football, which is what they have pined for in recent years. There was then less exhilaration against Zorya Luhansk, but at least they won while keeping a clean sheet, meaning that pressure continued to ease.
It looks like United are recovering and a strong showing against Stoke can reinforce confidence at a crucial time ahead of an international break that precedes a punishing October schedule for Mourinho’s men.
Fan rating: 6/10