Whenever the name José Mourinho or Pep Guardiola is uttered, titles is one thing that springs to mind. The pair were big rivals while in Spain, with one coaching Barcelona while the other, Real Madrid. Fast forward to the present where both are in their second season in charge at their respective Manchester clubs and are yet to deliver the league title. The question is, who is under more pressure to guide his team to the Premier League title?
Heading into the 2016/17 Premier League season, Manchester was in a frenzy as two of the biggest names in football were scheduled to manage the city’s two biggest clubs. It was expected that both would be right in the mix for the league title at least until the final weeks of the season. After all, Pep Guardiola had been a success at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, winning the title in his first season in charge at both clubs. José Mourinho himself had also been a winner wherever he has been and is well versed in English football.
Well, for all the hype that followed Guardiola and Mourinho’s arrival, it must be said that overall, both didn’t have the kind of impact one would have expected in their debut season – at least not in the league.
Granted, Guardiola’s City did have an electric start to last season, winning all ten of their opening games. But after that period, the team’s obvious weakness: defence, began costing the Citizens precious points. It’s telling City went into the new year outside the top four, trailing leaders Chelsea by ten points. City were still able to finish third, though, thanks to Liverpool’s late season struggles.
For United, the difficulty they faced in putting lesser teams away at Old Trafford meant that a top four, let alone a title push, was always going to an uphill struggle. And it proved to be the case, United finishing outside the top four for the second consecutive season.
The Red Devils finished sixth, a whopping 24 points behind champions, Chelsea. But then, one would argue that the Red Devils had abandoned any hopes of a top four finish as early as March, and had turned all attention to the Europa League, which proved a wise move in the end.
The Manchester clubs have enjoyed a brilliant start to the 2017/18 Premier League season. Both are joint-top, with City edging United solely on goal difference. And unlike last season, both teams look a lot more able and balanced. So much so that many after just seven match-days have tipped the league title to be decided between either. And who could blame them?
City and United are the only Premier League teams yet to taste defeat this season. The Sky Blues are scoring goals for fun at the moment, bagging 25 goals in their last seven games. The same can be said for the Red Devils who are also having a fruitful spell in front of goal, although they haven’t really shown the kind of flair their neighbours are showcasing.
But the brilliant start both have had would be all for nothing if they don’t win – or come close to winning – the league this season.
Pep Guardiola was brought to City not just to make them dominant in the country, but in all of Europe. If he fails to deliver the league this season, then question marks will arise as to whether or not he is the right man to take City to the promised land. After all, he has been very well-backed in successive transfer windows, spending over £300 million on signings, so he can have no excuses.
Jose Mourinho is no saint either, when it comes to splurging in the transfer market. And like Guardiola, he too will come under heavy pressure if this Premier League season ends up being anything like the last.
This is not to say that both Mourinho and Guardiola risk getting the axe if they fall short of the league title this season; far from it, in fact. The pair look secure in their respective positions, and one gets the feeling they won’t be in any danger regardless of what happens later in the term.
In my opinion, Guardiola probably needs the title more than the self-proclaimed “Special One” – and not only on account of the obscene amount he has spent thus far, but also because he was appointed to bring immediate success to the club, which hasn’t happened just yet.