Mourinho vs Guardiola: The Great Debate

by Sam Peoples

After a catching post on the RedCafe forums, I asked Daniel Castle aka Berbarito ( to write a guest article for me on whether Mourinho or Guardiola would be best suited as the next United manager. It is undoubtedly an interesting discussion for United fans as we all know that SAF cannot manage United forever, despite his attempts so far. As to who takes over from SAF when he finally decides to hang up his boots is a debate that will continue right up until the day his successor is announced.


Jose Mourinho

Pep Guardiola


Undoubtedly two of the biggest names in the managerial world as of today,   Mourinho and Guardiola have both been touted to get the hot seat at United when SAF decides to close the cover on his illustrious career with the Red Devils. Whether Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola would be the better choice as next Manchester United manager is a complicated debate that involves a lot of variables. The underlying factor is whether Manchester United are looking for success at all costs or whether Manchester United represents the virtues of an institution that not only has to win trophies but has to win trophies with a degree of style and class.

FC Porto celebrate winning the 2004 Champions League

If Manchester United fans are looking for guaranteed success then the obvious choice would be Jose Mourinho. Jose has proven himself already in the English Premier League and would take no time at all to adjust to his new surroundings. The self anointed ‘Special One’ has achieved instant success in all of his managerial roles so far, taking Portuguese minnows FC Porto to successive European triumphs in the 2003 UEFA Cup and the 2004 Champions League.

Mourinho celebrates with Chelsea after taking the Premier League crown

Mourinho then took Chelsea to their first league title for 50 years in 2005 and then retained the crown in 2006, before leading Inter Milan to their first Champions League title for 45 years in 2010 which was the centrepiece of an unprecedented treble for an Italian club. In his current role as Real Madrid coach, the ‘Special One’ has been unable to derail the unstoppable Barcelona in La Liga but he has led the Spanish giants to their first Copa Del Rey title for 18 years and also taken Real Madrid past the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since 2004.

Guardiola gets the bumps

On the other hand there is Pep Guardiola. Pep is a relatively young manager at the age of 40 but has achieved unbelievable success in his short 3 year managerial career at Barcelona. He became the first manager in Spain to win the treble in 2009 and has held Barcelona at the pinnacle of world football since. Guardiola is on the verge of a third successive La Liga title as well as his second Champions League final and the success of the team is unquestionable. Whilst some doubters may denigrate Guardiola’s successes and say that he has been lucky to have such a talented squad of players in his first job role, it has to remembered that he took over a side that had stagnated under Frank Rijkaard and had lost 2 successive titles to a poor Real Madrid side. As successful as Guardiola has undoubtedly been, his lack of experience of the English Premier League and the culture of English football would mean that he would likely take longer to settle at Old Trafford than his Portuguese counterpart. On the other hand, who is to say that Guardiola will not settle down instantly at the Theatre of Dreams in much the same fashion as Mourinho did at Stamford Bridge?

Mourinho’s managerial prowess can not be questioned in the world of football. Time and time again he has proved his mastermind of the tactical side of football but he could be considered unsuitable as the next Manchester United manager on 3 main issues.

Sarcastic Mourinho sent to the stands against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League this year

The first and most important issue is whether Mourinho’s overly controversial antics and general behaviour would match the ethos of Manchester United. Throughout his managerial career, success and controversy have gone hand in hand. Jose Mourinho has shown a continual lack of class and a lack of respect for his opponents in every country that he has worked in. He transformed Chelsea into the most hated team in Europe through his constant unnecessary battles with rivals and officials. United fans already have some negative connotations of Mourinho which all began with his famous knee slide following United’s dismissal from the Champions League at the hands of Porto, albeit in incredibly controversial circumstances. One of Mourinho’s most heinous of his crimes was against Barcelona in the Champions League, when he lied to the world that he saw Frank Rijkaard entering the referee Anders Frisk’s changing room when this has since been proven to be totally false. At Inter Milan, Mourinho became Serie A’s most hated man within months after antagonising the Italian media with his lack of respect for opponents. After leaving Italy, the pattern has been exactly the same in La Liga with Real Madrid and his disgraceful behaviour in the build up to the four ‘El Classico’ matches in the last month.

United have an impressive trophy cabinet

Secondly, previous and current employers have put up with Mourinho’s antics as they have all been in a state of being desperate for success. Roman Abramovich had pumped hundreds of millions of pounds in for Chelsea to be successful, Inter Milan were winning Serie A year after year but they were chasing an elusive Champions League title and Real Madrid were desperate to end Barcelona’s current dominance. Manchester United are in the most successful 5 years of their history with a possible 4th League title in 5 years and a likely 3rd Champions League final in 4 years. Due to this, many might not be so readily able to accept Mourinho’s flaws as Abramovich, Massimo Moratti and Florentino Perez have done in their past. Although, will the Glazer family really have any moral issues with Mourinho? Some might argue that a more suitable destination for Mourinho may be a team in need of success like Manchester City or Liverpool but realistically, nobody can possibly help Manchester City.

You talking about me?

The third and most apparent character flaw of ‘the Special One’ is his need to make everything about him. His egotistical approach can be seen as a positive when his team loses, as it takes the pressure off of his players but in success his ‘all about me’ attitude can lead to his players not getting the credit that they are due. When Chelsea won their first trophy, the 2005 League Cup, his unnecessary taunting of the Liverpool fans which led to his red card was all that was being discussed in the media rather than his players winning a trophy. This season in a comeback victory against Villareal where Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, the next day all of Spain was talking about Mourinho’s fracas with the Villareal bench rather than Ronaldo’s performance. Under Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, Manchester United have achieved unprecedented success but he allows the players to get the credit they deserve and does not make it all about him. This could cause friction in the manager and fan relationship United fans have grown to know and love. Is it something we would be willing to give up or would Mourinho give the fans and players the respect they deserve at Old Trafford?

Guardiola took Barcelona to the treble in the 2009 season

Guardiola couldn’t be a more opposite candidate in many respects. He has handled himself with a lot of class and dignity throughout his time at Barcelona and has only very rarely let himself down in that regard, finally caving into to Mourinho after months and months of constant harassment and jibes. The only real criticism of Guardiola has been the play acting from the likes of Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets and the surrounding of referees to debate decisions. However, I would not consider this as a Guardiola issue as this is more a systemic problem on the continent and in South America. In these countries, players are brought up with gamesmanship not frowned upon and just seen as part of the game. Every week in La Liga you will see players diving and feigning injuries and so this is not purely a Barcelona issue but something bigger than Guardiola and therefore out of his control. Even for Sir Alex Ferguson it is not easy to drum this behaviour out of continental players and although Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo have improved after years in England, they still cannot fully remove that element from their game. Possibly the worst culprits of ‘the dark arts’ in recent years was Jose Mourinho’s Porto side, especially in their shocking behaviour in the 2003 UEFA Cup final victory against Celtic. But Mourinho did not set out his Chelsea team in the same manner as this would not be accepted in England and so this would also not be a worry if Guardiola became the next boss at the Theatre of Dreams™.

Fabregas came out of Barcelona's youth team

Quite possibly one of the most most significant reasons why Guardiola may be a more suitable candidate than Mourinho is the issue of youth development. The history of Manchester United is based on giving youth a chance with the ‘Busby Babes’ and ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’. Jose Mourinho has a reputation for buying proven players rather than nurturing young talent and in his time as Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager, he hasn’t brought through any players from the youth team to the first team.

Paul Pogba could emerge as a future star at United

On the other hand, Guardiola in his short time as Barcelona coach has brought through Pedro and Sergio Busquets, who he has transformed from Barcelona B players into World Cup winners. Manchester United have their best crop of youngsters in a number of years with their FA Youth Cup final crop of talent with Paul Pogba, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Ravel Morrison notably coming to the fore. It seems more likely that these young players would have a chance of being blooded under Guardiola rather than Mourinho.

The style of football that their teams play may also determine the replacement for SAF at Old Trafford. Guardiola may be a better fit to match Manchester United’s philosophy. From Matt Busby to Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United have been renowned for playing attacking free flowing football. Jose Mourinho is mainly a results driven manager who thrives on shutting opposing teams out and does not mind the style that his teams play in as long as they win. He has subsequently been accused of focusing on how to stop opponents play rather than how to let his own players express themselves. Pep Guardiola’s footballing education has been based on the beautiful game which is a must at Barcelona and his team have been the most entertaining team in the world for the last 3 years. As well as bringing this style of football to Old Trafford he would also be able to attract the cream of Spanish talent, who are currently the most technically gifted players in the world.

The Busby philosophy still exists strongly at United

So the crux of the matter could well be is winning all that matters, or do Manchester United stand for something more than that. We have been blessed that SAF was brought to United but is he irreplacable? Only time will show us who replaces SAF in the hot seat but one thing is for sure, the best managerial job in football will soon be up for grabs and everybody will be itching their teeth to get at it. Place your votes and comment as you please. Thanks for Dan for writing the article and thanks for reading!

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