BEIJING: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho share a precise awareness of their overriding priority. This is not the outcome of the latest derby between Manchester City and United in the Beijing Bird’s Nest but finishing ahead of the other at the top of the Premier League next May.
Mourinho is popularly considered as usually having come off second-best in his scraps with Guardiola, going back to their days as managerial rivals with Real Madrid and Barcelona between 2010 and 2012.
But this is misleading. In the spring of 2010 Mourinho’s Internazionale knocked Guardiola’s Barcelona out of the Champions League then his Real Madrid beat them to the La Liga crown in 2012, prompting Guardiola’s departure for a one-year sabbatical ahead of his move to FC Bayern.
Both men were keen to play down history ahead of the clubs’ first meeting outside of England. Guardiola said: “This is a friendly game, a really friendly game. We can shake hands, we are polite guys. Why not? He wants to win, I want to win. That’s all.”
Mourinho has largely avoided invitations to talk about Guardiola, apart from an early observation that the ex-Bayern coach might not be at ease in a league where every game and every opponent present a dangerous challenge by comparison with Spain and Germany.
Over the coming year they resume their rivalry – which stretches from personal styles to football philosophies – not only in the same league but in the same city.
Both have the same task: to rebuild failing institutions. They have vast budgets for new players: City and United have spent £45m and £36m respectively so far this summer. Guardiola wants at least three more players while Mourinho hopes to add Paul Pogba from Juventus for €100m-plus.
Mourinho is also considering which players he wants to keep. The Old Trafford futures of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcus Rojo, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj and Morgan Schneiderlin are all uncertain. Anthony Martial is unhappy at having had ‘his’ No9 shirt handed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Thus far neither new manager has had the opportunity to work with his full squad. Sergio Aguero only joined up with City on Saturday, after a break following the Copa America. His target was showing off his ability to Guardiola on Thursday against Borussia Dortmund in Shenzhen rather than against United.