Blog Written by Nicholas Dobbin (@MUFC_1958):
It’s that time of year again where we all make our predictions on the new Premier League season, the same predictions that we all invariably try and distance ourselves from come May. The time of year where the eager sense of anticipation starts to take over your body so much that you cannot think of anything else. All the footballing eyes have been on Manchester this summer with the arrivals of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. Manchester United have been making all the waves this summer with the stellar signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba in addition to Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan under the tutorage of the reinvigorated Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has made younger additions a priority to his aging Manchester City side. Pep has already recruited eight players this summer with only two of them players over the age of twenty-five. But who will come out on top when the curtain comes down on the 2016/17 campaign?
Josep Guardiola was a combative centre midfield player at the heart of Johan Cruyff’s “dream team” and no man has had a bigger influence on his career than the Dutch legend. His football teams are built in the same mould as Cruyff’s Barcelona team that won their first European Cup in 1992 and four successive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994. Guardiola started his coaching career off as the Barca B coach before moving up to take over from Frank Rijkaard in 2008, and he never looked back. Shipping out big names like Ronaldinho, Deco and later Samuel Eto’o to make room for the younger talents of Lionel Messi and Andreas Iniesta, turning an already good side into arguably the greatest team of all time. He then moved to Bayern Munich for a new challenge and had similar success although the Champions League eluded him in Germany. The criticism Pep has had throughout his career, somewhat unfairly maybe, is that he has taken charge of two sides in Barcelona and Bayern that were already considered among the very best teams in Europe at the time. Many still saying that Pep needed to take on a team who were not considered as one of the top 3 or 4 in Europe and develop them into being the best, something that his counterpart Mourinho has done with Porto and Inter Milan. Therefore, Manchester City represents the first real test of Guardiola’s career to turn an aging under-performing side (especially in Europe) into being the best team in Europe during his tenure.
Jose Mourinho on the other hand in recent years has found life a little more difficult than he did in his first few years in management where he won trebles at Porto and Inter winning three European trophies during this period. But from then on, at Real Madrid and his second stint at Chelsea, he’s had his ups and downs ending in the sack at both teams. Last year Mourinho’s ego took its biggest knock after getting the sack from Chelsea leaving the champions in 16th just one point above the relegation zone. This however, could work in favour of Manchester United because if we thought ‘the special one’ was one of the best coaches in the world before, just imagine what a wounded Jose Mourinho could be like. We have already got a taste as he has brought in two mega stars in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and breaking the world transfer record with the £89 million signing of Paul Pogba in addition to Eric Bailly and Bundesliga player of the year Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
So, who will come out on top this season Jose or Pep? If you look at past meetings between the two there is only one winner, with Jose winning only three out of the sixteen meetings between the two. However, Mourinho is still the only manager to beat Pep Guardiola to a league title in his career during his time at Real Madrid. The feeling around the footballing world is that Manchester United are on the way up with young players starting to make a name for themselves in Rashford, Shaw, Martial, Lingard and Fosu-Mensah. Then, once you add them to De Gea, Smalling, Pogba, Mkhitaryan Rooney and Ibrahimovic you have a very strong side. On the other hand, Manchester City still has a lot more to do in this summer transfer window. In recent seasons City have been seen to have the strongest side in the league but often their mental strength has been questioned, something that the former Barcelona manager will not put up with. Guardiola has already looked to bring down the average age of the group with signings of Zinchenko, Stones, Sane, Jesus and Gundogan. However, there are question marks whether they can all hit the ground running at the Etihad this season.
In conclusion, when you look at both sides there is not much to choose between the two. Both sides have spent upwards of £100 million this window already in a bid to regain the Premier League crown. The difference between the two however, is that you have to feel that Manchester United’s squad is a lot more settled than Manchester City’s. There are still a lot of questions that need answering for the Citizens. Can Stones and Sterling regain their form and become more consistent? Are they both good enough? Is Joe Hart going to be Pep’s number one or is he going to bring somebody else in? Will Yaya get the axe under Pep for the second time? Are Mangala, Nasri, Delph, Navas and Bony part of his plans? Are all questions that are yet to be answered and with a week to go before the new campaign you would have to feel that they are not ready. With all this in mind I feel Mourinho will come out on top this season. His Premier League experience, world class signings in the peak of their powers and he has more of settled squad being a huge factor in me believing that Manchester United are better equipped to win the Premier League title this season. This is all of course speculation but, one thing is for sure, this season is going to be incredible.