Manchester Derby Questions
Rose Coloured Glasses
By COLLEN LESOLE
1.Will the result from Saturday have any bearing going forward?
It is still too early at this stage of the league to say with a degree of certainty what impact Saturday’s game will have on the fortunes of the two Mancunian sides in the current season. There is still 34 more games to play: that is a possible 102 points to be won and lost between now and May 2017. The ‘re-emergence’ of Chelsea under Antonio Conte, and Arsenal’s ability to be an ever present in the top four mix, coupled with the dual threat of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur means that title talk at this stage of the campaign is premature.
Notwithstanding such, the two clubs have acquired top class managers in the summer and will be looking to land the title but they both are aware of the shift or rather precisely, the decentralization of power in the Premier League. It will be certainly foolhardy, based on how United and City have fared so far, to dismiss their title chances.
Equally, it will be naïve to trump up their chances based solely on the pedigree of their managers and the talent in their respective squads. Manchester United have a manager who has had a taste of Premier League life and death before and knows how treacherous the terrain can be. Since Jose Mourinho’s arrival, together with his new signings, there has been a tangible change at Old Trafford and the ‘Red Devils’, to the joy of their million supporters around the world who had folded their jerseys under their mattresses, Mourinho has been a breath of fresh air.
There is renewed vigour and optimism about United and in larger part the larger than life personalities of Mourinho, the legendary Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the free spirited Paul Pogba are central to that.
Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola on the other hand is the EPL’s newest arrival. In larger part the Premier League universe is warming up to the Catalan and his blitzkrieg start to life at the Etihad has been impressive. Under him so far, City are a new creature,in similar parallel to their sworn blood rivals just four miles away.
But there are many who are convinced that Guardiola and his slick and smooth brand of football will soon be victims of more streetwise and pragmatic sides. To a larger extent, such doubt has been the story of Guardiola’s managerial career so far. In Manchester, together with his great rival Mourinho, the two will seek to write another chapter in their great managerial careers. But four games into the season is still too early a time to pop the champagne or ring a death knell on their teams.
For now,like all they need time- the greatest equalizer. Time.Tick tock, tick tock. And loads of patience.
2. Is Jose Mourinho still the ‘pragmatist’ and Pep Guardiola ‘idealist’ in your eyes?
One of the greatest tragedies about the media is how we have drawn, coloured,packaged and sold managers or individuals. And as a columnist, I have been guilty of the same in this very column.
In my view the two terms: ‘pragmatist’ and ‘idealist’ are in the context of the instant subject, dogmatic and restrictive. Pragmatism, in relation to Mourinho’ s approach to the game insinuates that the same is mechanical, straitjacketed,dull and insipid. While Mourinho sometimes galls opposing managers and the press with his remarks, he certainly can put out sides that can play some enterprising football. In the first half of the 2014/15 season when he romped to the league title with Chelsea, the ‘Blues’ did churn out some pretty football.
But once he put distance between his team and the competitors, Chelsea played cautious and gave little away. In the case of Guardiola, the frequent use of the term ‘idealist’ to day describe him is left with a caricature of a man whose football we have come to view as beautiful but flawed, sexy, risky,innovative and tainted with some naivety. It is another of those public profiles the media has drawn about him and other managers that the world had come to accept. Every manager will at some point in the game or his career take a risk, in the form of a tactical switch or move. It is an ever constant in managers’ lives.
I think those two words, while in some ways capturing what the two managers are all about, are not a succinct description. Like some many superlatives, they are often subjective. I cannot think of a better single adjective to profile Mourinho and Guardiola and in large part, I am reluctant to do such. There are games and there have been instances where the idealist in Guardiola has been direct pragmatic, largely in part because of the nature of such game and Mourinho has had to come out guns blazing in some games.
In larger part, the description fits but I find it a tad ill-fitting.