Mourinho and Guardiola shake things up

15 Aug

Jose Mourinho and his players


Jose Mourinho did not celebrate until Manchester United scored their third goal at Bournemouth

Sir Alex Ferguson said the best way to deal with noisy neighbours was to turn the volume up.

The TVs at Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford must have been deafening this summer given the tumultuous events at Manchester City and Manchester United.

Like a couple of heavyweights slugging it out, the blues and the reds have traded blows of immense power.

City landed a galactico gaffer. United responded with one of their own.

United struck with a world-record signing, City hit back with a British-record defender.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s experience, Leroy Sane’s youth. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Nolito, Eric Bailly, Ilkay Gundogan. The cost? £300m in transfer fees alone.

They followed each other into action on the Premier League’s opening weekend. City’s Saturday tea-time game was followed by United’s early outing at Bournemouth on Sunday.

Pep feels the power of the Premier League

Pep Guardiola<!–

Pep Guardiola has won a domestic title in six of his seven seasons as a top-flight manager

Pep Guardiola likes to portray serenity and control. Yet the early signs are, for all English football’s technical deficiencies, he will get sucked into the frantic nature of the Premier League, which is what makes it so attractive.

There was something vaguely amusing about watching Guardiola, the giant scoreboard in front of him stuck on 90 minutes as injury-time ticked on, clasping first his hands, then his head in anguish as his team struggled to keep out a Sunderland side who, having dragged themselves level once, were attempting to do it again.

You could almost hear the roar of appreciation as Fernandinho crunched into a stereotypically English agricultural tackle inside his own box, snuffing out another visiting attack by launching the ball, if not quite into row Z, then definitely around the Q area.

“What I realised is you are not safe until the referee says go home,” said Guardiola after his side’s 2-1 win over David Moyes’ side.

Jose Mourinho knows all about this. The Premier League is familiar territory.

He wasn’t waving his arms around in Bournemouth. For the most part he kept his hands in his pockets. His brief spells on the bench did not resemble a bouncing ball like Guardiola’s did. He didn’t even celebrate until his team got their third and he felt the game was won.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jose Mourinho<!–

Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho replaced Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford this summer

Mourinho is unfamiliar as the manager of Manchester United.

He has done his homework though. He heard the reaction to Moyes wanting to “become more like Manchester City” as United finished seventh and Louis van Gaal moan about “expectations being too high” as they finished fifth.

“Everybody knows we will fight for the title,” Mourinho said on Sunday after the 3-1 win at Bournemouth. “Whether we win it or not is a different story but we don’t hide in our words.”

The chinks are clear to see

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Mourinho ‘very happy’ with win at Bournemouth

Yes they both won. Yes, in patches, they played well. But you don’t have to look too hard to find chinks in the armour.

Manchester United’s first two goals at Bournemouth were more than a touch fortunate. A save by the keeper that bounced off a defender’s legs gave Juan Mata an open goal to fire United ahead. Anthony Martial’s misdirected header created the chance for Wayne Rooney to double their lead.

And where were the kids? Striker Marcus Rashford was an unused substitute. Paddy McNair has been sold to Sunderland. Jesse Lingard was injured and 21-year-old Luke Shaw disappointed. One senses Mourinho will look after them but the jury is still out.

Up at City, Pep Guardiola’s much-hyped bow in English football was heading for a disappointing draw until former United defender McNair turned Jesus Navas’ 87th-minute cross into his own net.

In a 38-game season, Sunderland at home and Bournemouth away are games that should be won. Of last season’s top four, only Leicester dropped a couple of points in Dorset. Sunderland were beaten by them all.

The major tests are all still to come.

Mourinho has a big decision to make about Pogba

Paul Pogba<!–

Paul Pogba joined Manchester United in midweek but was suspended for the game at Bournemouth

Suspended this weekend, the world’s most expensive player is available for Friday’s Old Trafford encounter with Southampton.

How will Jose Mourinho accommodate midfielder Paul Pogba, the £89m signing from Juventus? And what will it mean?

United started on Sunday with a 4-2-3-1 formation. They finished as a 4-3-3.

In the former, Pogba would be playing the same position in which he disappointed during the Euro 2016 final for France. Without a dedicated defensive midfield partner, he would be too deep to operate at his best.

The latter system seems better – and in Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin, Mourinho has the players who could give Pogba the freedom to roam forward.

The issue is further forward. In every sense, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is United’s number nine. Ideally there would be pace either side. Though not slow by any means, Rooney is not rapid like Martial, Rashford and Memphis Depay.

Mourinho is not afraid to make big decisions. In paying £89m for Pogba, he has given himself one to make within a week.

Man City’s defence are on the move

Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna<!–

These are the touches that Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna had against Sunderland – with plenty more midfield action than full-backs usually see

We all know Guardiola likes his teams to keep the ball, but what does it mean exactly?

Well, at the very first City goal-kick on Saturday, central defenders John Stones and Aleksandar Kolorov, who was a makeshift centre-back, pulled to each side of the penalty area, virtually to the dead ball line. Between them, Fernandinho took up a position on the edge of the area, all making themselves available for a short pass.

The ploy was repeated in free play, with the full-backs both advancing and creeping in, creating space in the wide areas for Raheem Sterling and Nolito.

It didn’t entirely work to Guardiola’s satisfaction and as Sunderland manager Moyes noted afterwards, the media is “fixated” with overseas managers.

Nevertheless, this was different – to the extent that Guardiola was asked whether his full-backs, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna, knew what was being asked of them.

According to their manager, they do. All he asks for now is that movement turns into more efforts on goal.

Renewed hope for last season’s misfits

Raheem Sterling<!–

Raheem Sterling only made one start for Manchester City after February last season

Few players have been derided quite as much as City winger Sterling and United midfielder Fellaini. At £49m and £27m respectively they are held up as the epitome of ridiculous spending – often by their club’s own fans as much as the opposition’s.

It was widely assumed, under the managerial genius of Guardiola and Mourinho, neither had a future.

Yet this weekend, they were both excellent.

Guardiola says he has seen qualities in Sterling that make him think he can be a very useful asset, including “being a fighter”, an attribute that has not always been obvious in the 21-year-old.

His pace has never been in doubt. His attitude much more so. But in a system designed to create space in wide areas, he caused problems Sunderland found difficult to combat, including winning City their early penalty.

Early days of course, but it was the type of performance Liverpool fans will remember.

Fellaini made his name on the other side of Merseyside with Everton. Booed when he got off the United coach at Bournemouth, it was almost a shock to see him dart around the Vitality Stadium, pressing the ball, winning it on occasion, and not a stray elbow in sight.

As a long-range forecast, Fellaini is the least likely to lose his place to accommodate Pogba.

But some star names could be out on their ear

Joe Hart<!–

“I have a lot of respect for Joe. I know how good a goalkeeper he is, but I decided for Willy,” said Guardiola after dropping the England keeper

City keeper Joe Hart, defenders Eliaquim Mangala and Jason Denayer, midfielders Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri and striker Wilfried Bony; United defenders Matteo Darmian and Phil Jones, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and wingers Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj – they make up a pretty decent team.

A collection of senior international players not even deemed good enough for a place on the bench this weekend – except in Hart’s case, where England’s number one is City’s number two.

Hart is in a state of flux. He was disappointed to be left out this weekend, he has no relationship with Guardiola to speak of and the evidence for his manager’s assertion that Willy Caballero, a 34-year-old who has never played for Argentina, has better distribution is flimsy.

But Hart won’t really be certain of his fate until Guardiola has selected his side for the Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday.

Januzaj has already been loaned out when he wanted his move away from United to be permanent.

It is very easy to write players off too early. However, with both Guardiola and Mourinho saying people will be sold before the transfer window shuts on 31 August, potential buyers could be optimistic about their chances of picking up any of the unwanted XI.

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Hart reacted well to omission – Guardiola

The next few weeks are crucial

Pep Guardiola says City’s two-legged Champions League qualifier against Steaua represents his side’s biggest two matches of the season. If they win, they won’t be. Losing and ending up in the Europa League like United does not bear thinking about.

Mourinho knew what he was walking into. The new experiences Guardiola was looking forward to when he quit Bayern for the Etihad did not include Europe’s second-tier competition.

In the league, Southampton and Hull (United) and Stoke and West Ham (City) are the next opponents the Mancunians must face.

After that it is the transfer window; after that an international break. And then?

It does all feel a bit like a phoney war. In September, the comings and goings will stop. Europe, in earnest, will start. The matches will come every four days. There will be no chance to stop for breath.

So what is the first game after the international break.

Manchester United v Manchester City. Old Trafford. 10 September. 12:30 BST.

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