Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has aimed a subtle dig at his nemesis Jose Mourinho by pointing towards Manchester United’s direct approach under the Portuguese.
The pair faced off on three occasions last season, with both sides beating each other at Old Trafford during the early stages of the campaign before playing out a goalless draw in April.
In the end, Guardiola ended the season without a trophy for the first time in his career while Mourinho claimed the League Cup and Europa League.
And the Spaniard, in an interview with Gary Lineker, was quick to engage in a few mind games with Mourinho with the two clubs sitting at the top of the table.
“I don’t think so, you see for example you see the national team, Dier, Alli, Rashford, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Henderson, Lallana – these are players who have the quality to play,” he said.
“I see Chelsea, I see Tottenham, they want to play, they like to play, and build up, so when United play long balls, second balls they play to Fellaini and Pogba after they have the quality to play.”
Lineker called Guardiola out for his quip to United, supposed to dip under radar, to which he responded: “I have a lot of respect for my neighbours.”
Guardiola will always be known as a purist of sorts: somebody who dedicated his managerial life to perfecting and adapting a particular style – a vision of how to play the game – and justifying it with constant success.
And he may do that this season. The Guardiola project has progressed over the summer and Man City are looking fluid and creative, abounding with options going forward whilst maintaining a dynamic shape.
But Mourinho sees football in a different way. He doesn’t believe in one style, one vision, one enshrined way of beating the opponent.
Instead, the Portuguese will meticulously assess his opposite number and figure out the best way to emerge victorious by nullifying strengths and highlighting weaknesses. And this changes with every game. There is no Mourinho style, but rather the Mourinho practice of pragmatism on a day-to-day basis, always adapting to the conditions to win. Think of Chelsea at home last season; think of the Europa League final.
This is why I would never pick a fight with Mourinho: the man would have all my pressure points figured out before I even stepped into the ring.
In the end, when the next generation arises, history will look on Guardiola as a visionary – a man with more than just a will to win, but indeed an idea of how to best achieve it.
But Mourinho, while something of a pantomime figure, will always be known as one of the finest serial winners to ever grace football, and sport in general.