Ever since Mourinho was overlooked for the Barcelona job in 2008 he has seen himself as the anti-Guardiola, and sought to deliberately oppose the tiki-taka aesthetic that had become a mainstream phenomenon. He is the ultimate pragmatist, believing that possession is dangerous and quick counter-attacks are more effective than the idealistic approach of Guardiola. Which of these approaches will be more successful?
Man United’s strengths
The Portuguese is unfairly labelled as a defensive manager. His quick, counter-attacking philosophy brought explosive football to Real Madrid (who scored more than 100 goals in each of his seasons at the club) and, with so many fast young attackers in the side, Man United will play with similar aggression.
Possessing a manager who understands the club’s history and promises to play attacking soccer is arguably United’s biggest strength this season.
His brand of direct, width-focused soccer will be surprisingly reminiscent of the Alex Ferguson era. Possessing a manager who understands the club’s history and promises to play attacking soccer is arguably United’s biggest strength this season.
Mourinho’s four signings have transformed Man United overnight. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba need no introduction and should adapt quickly to the aggressive tempo of the Premier League.
Eric Bailly had an excellent debut against Leicester City, keeping Jamie Vardy quiet with relative ease. He is extremely quick and graceful on the ball, which should alleviate some of United’s defensive concerns.
Man United’s weaknesses
Paul Pogba will not fix all of United’s midfield woes. They still look short in the middle, an area that was their biggest vulnerability under Louis van Gaal. Marouane Fellaini is likely to improve significantly under the new coach but remains a liability defensively, whilst Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin need to improve dramatically on their performances over the last 12 months.
The other main concern for United fans is Wayne Rooney, who has been handed an opportunity to re-find his form under Mourinho, a long-time admirer of his talents. If he fails to impress in the number ten role, his new manager will not hesitate to drop him. Jesse Lingard, who was outstanding against Leicester in the Community Shield, is ready to start behind Ibrahimovic.
Man City’s strengths
Man City possesses an embarrassment of riches in attacking midfield, with David Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Kevin de Bruyne joined over the summer by Leroy Sane and Nolito. Guardiola is arguably the best attacking coach in the world, creating wonderfully synchronised patterns in the final third. City’s creative players could flourish under the new regime.
Guardiola is a highly adaptive manager, but settling into English soccer’s rhythm could take time, and give Mourinho the edge in the first few months of the campaign.
Ilkay Gundogan significantly strengthens the City team and Fabian Delph, an exceptionally gifted footballer, is likely to excel under Guardiola. City’s central midfield should be a lot more robust this season, as should their defence. Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi will learn a lot from their new head coach.
Man City’s weaknesses
Guardiola’s possession-centric style may prove to be too slow for the Premier League. What’s more, his Bayern Munich and Barcelona teams occasionally struggled against clubs that pressed high and denied them time on the ball – something virtually all Premier League clubs do. He is a highly adaptive manager, but settling into English soccer’s rhythm could take time, and give Mourinho the edge in the first few months of the campaign.
Full-back remains a serious problem area for Man City. All four players are in their thirties and looked easily beatable in the last campaign, although Guardiola will attempt some creative solutions if this proves to be a problem. Don’t be surprised to see the likes of Delph and Fernando employed as full-backs.
Who will finish higher?
In the head to head betting, Pinnacle odds favour Man City to finish higher in the league at a current 1.769*. If you believe that Mourinho’s experience, coupled with his squad’s suitability to his tactical style, means that he will take the advantage in the 2016/17 season, United are currently priced at 2.11* to finish above City.
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