Manchester — They've hired the two most coveted coaches in
world football. Their spending on new players this offseason has just shattered
the $300-million barrier. Their stated aim is to win the English Premier
Make no mistake: The Manchester clubs mean business.
It was clearly an affront to United and City that they ended
up fighting it out for fourth place in the Premier League last season.
Standards slipped, rivals stole a march, a big reaction was needed.
So United hired Jose Mourinho as coach, made a statement
signing in Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and has just broken the
world-record transfer fee to lure France midfielder Paul Pogba for around 105
million euros ($116 million). Forget being satisfied just making the top four:
Mourinho, a win-at-all-costs coach, is demanding the title.
"I want to win," Mourinho said on being hired.
"I think we can really, yes."
By the time Mourinho was confirmed at United in May, City
had already secured the signature of Pep Guardiola. It renews a coaching
rivalry in Spain that sparked and occasionally got nasty when Mourinho was in
charge of Real Madrid and Guardiola at Barcelona.
And Guardiola has set about bringing more youth, pace and
intensity into City's squad by signing six players — including Leroy Sane,
Nolito, teenage Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan — for around
This is the biggest test of Guardiola's coaching career
after his trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Also read: Sane undergoes medical check with Man City
"Our objective," City chief executive Ferran
Soriano said, "is to get to the end of the season with chances to win
For the hotbed not just of English football but the world game,
look no further than Manchester.
In 2012, City and United were the central figures in the
most exciting end ever to a Premier League season, with the blue half winning
the title on goal difference. They also finished as the top two teams the
following season, this time United winning the league.
Since then, United hasn't finished higher than fourth place
in a post-Alex Ferguson era characterized by questionable managerial
appointments and haphazard player recruitment. City has won the league once
more (in 2014), which is widely considered a poor return given the wealth and
players at the disposal of a club owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family.
Mourinho and Guardiola will shake things up. They have each
captured 22 major trophies and have coached the biggest names in the sport.
They have an intense work ethic and are among the most ruthless managers
around. They are winners, pure and simple.
It's no wonder, then, that there's often fireworks when they
meet. For the moment, there's a truce — at his official presentation at City,
Guardiola said Mourinho had helped him "reach another level" as a
coach — but there will be as much focus on the dugouts and technical area as on
the field during the first Manchester derby of the season on Sept. 10 at Old
As for their new teams, there are many questions to be
At United: Will the one-paced strike partnership of
Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney be a success? Will Pogba be weighed down by the
record price tag? How long will it take for Mourinho to change United players'
mindset from the Louis van Gaal era?
At City: Can Guardiola adapt to the grueling, competitive
nature of the Premier League where almost every win is hard-fought? Does the
team still rely too much on injury-prone stars Sergio Aguero and Vincent
Kompany? What role does Yaya Toure have under Guardiola, the man who sold him
at Barcelona? Is City's defense good enough to win the league?
At least one of these two superpowers will come up short in
the Premier League this season. Maybe even both, considering Chelsea, Arsenal,
Tottenham and even Liverpool are live contenders for the title, not forgetting
defending champion Leicester.
Reputations are on the line, but United and City couldn't
have done much more to get their teams in the right shape for the new season.For
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