As Mourinho promises to move past his personal rivalry with Guardiola, TheHardTackle looks back at three of the best clashes between the new Manchester United and Manchester City managers.
Jose Mourinho has always thrived under pressure and relished every occasion he’s had to be under the spotlight — particularly when talking about his rivals in the media, be it making smug remarks about Claudio Ranieri’s English speaking skills or labelling Arsene Wenger as a “specialist in failure”. But none of his other rivalries compare in terms of the intensity of his rivalry with Pep Guardiola. Fans around the world have enjoyed meetings between possibly the two best managers of their time and some have even likened their rivalry to the one Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have shared.
As such, fans were understandably excited when Jose Mourinho was appointed at the helm of Manchester United. However, Mourinho was quick to play down his rivalry with Guardiola, stating that his sole focus at Manchester United will be to win trophies and take the Red Devils back to the top of English football.
“[What happened in the past] does not allow me to be innocent. For two years Pep and I were in a league where the champion would be either me or him, Real Madrid or Barcelona,” Mourinho said to media in Lisbon.
There have been a lot of incidents in the past which have sparked controversy and invoked reactions from the two managers. We look at three fierce battles between Mourinho and Guardiola that have made the headlines and raised eyebrows.
Barcelona vs Inter Milan (Champions League semi-final 2010, Camp Nou)
Mourinho’s Inter Milan came to Camp Nou with a 3-1 lead and were facing a really tough encounter against Barcelona for a place in the final. With Thiago Motta being sent off in a rather controversial manner in the first half-hour, Inter Milan had to play the remaining hour of the game with 10 men against a super-charged Barcelona. After the first leg, Mourinho had severely criticized Barcelona for claiming a penalty, reminding the media how the Catalans got away with several penalty decisions in their victory over Chelsea the previous season.
Although Barcelona went on to win the second leg 1-0, Mourinho’s men heroically held on to their overall lead to reach the Champions League final. What followed after the final whistle was an outpouring of emotions from Jose Mourinho as he sprinted onto the Camp Nou turf and celebrated with a victory lap to show his jubilation and excitement at winning the semi-final. Mourinho’s Inter went on to win a historic treble that season.
“It is the most beautiful defeat of my life,” he said after the game. “It is a style of blood not skill. We were a team of heroes. It’s a pity I could not play because I have got the same blood. I have already won a Champions League but today was even better. We made huge sacrifices.”
Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Champions League semi-final 2011, Santiago Bernabeu)
A year on, Mourinho again found himself facing Guardiola and his Barcelona team. This time, however, as the manager of Real Madrid, he had an even more intense rivalry given the two were competing against each other on both domestic and European fronts. Barcelona and Real Madrid found themselves facing each other four times in a fortnight, which took the rivalry to a completely new — more bitter and personal — level.
Before the Champions League encounter, Jose Mourinho had scored a win over his rival Guardiola by clinching the Copa del Rey thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo winner. Ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie, the media got a glimpse of the dark side of Pep Guardiola, who was provoked by the remarks made by Mourinho a few days earlier.
The Barcelona icon launched an expletive-ridden tirade, saying, “Tomorrow at 8.45pm we will face each other on the pitch. Off the pitch he’s won. He’s been winning off the pitch all season. Let them give him a Champions League for it so he can enjoy it and take it home. In the press room he is ‘el p*** jefe’ (the ******* boss) and the one who knows more than everyone else.”
The Barcelona manager was to get his revenge on the pitch though, as Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0 at the Bernabeu and took one step into the competition’s final.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid (Supercopa de España 2011)
The two managers were at loggerheads again right at the start of the next season as their two teams faced each other in the Supercopa de España. Goals from Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi ensured that Barcelona won the game 3-2.
However, as with most games involving Mourinho and Guardiola, this did not go down as just a simple football encounter. There were controversial moments both on and off the pitch as both teams felt the need to one-up their fierce rivals.
The moment which stood out the most as a bitter act of retaliation was when Jose Mourinho walked towards Guardiola’s assistant manager Tito Vilanova and poked him in the eye. When the media asked the manager about the incident after the game, Mourinho replied by saying, “I don’t know who Pito Vilanova is” — a very sly and purposeful dig at the Barcelona assistant manager, whose name he mispronounced with the Spanish colloquial word for male genitalia.
As these two managers prepare to come face-to-face again in what is arguably the most exciting and competitive league in the world, it will be interesting to see how long Jose Mourinho’s promise of abstinence from personal remarks lasts before the managers decide to go at it again.