Mourinho and Guardiola make Manchester the envy of the world

19 Jul 2016

Mourinho and Guardiola make Manchester the envy of the world

All eyes are on Manchester again thanks to Manchester United and Manchester City's new bosses Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

Spain’s most respected quality newspaper El Pais ran a feature on Manchester, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola on Sunday. They sent a writer Lu Martin, a man who knew Mourinho well when he worked under Louis van Gaal at Barcelona and who also knows Guardiola well, to spend time in Manchester ahead of the season.

The new managerial arrivals have elevated interest in Mancunian football. El Pais wouldn’t have sent a special correspondent without them, unless Madrid or Barcelona were about to play United and City and they’d lined up a big interview.

Ahead of United playing Barcelona in 1994 – a game which attracted a 114,000 crowd, still the third biggest in United’s history – one Spanish quality paper did a report on Manchester which made it out to be a Dickensian hell-hole where the sun never shone and people still worked in dark, satanic mills. Photos of ruined Ancoats’ factories backed up this verdict – taken long before Ancoats’ modern transformation.

Without football, Manchester, the city, is as of much interest to Spanish readers as other 'Beta' world cities including Brisbane, Oslo, Vancouver or Madras. A Beta city is a level six-world city, according to the Globalization and World Rankings Research, a leading academic think tank on cities.

London and New York are the only level one Alpha cities. Shanghai and Beijing, where United and City play this week, are ranked level two, alongside Paris and Sydney. Manchester, in level 6, is the second highest ranked British city; Birmingham only makes level 7.

But the presence of Guardiola and Mourinho makes a huge difference to Iberian readers. The history of the two men has been intertwined since they worked together at Barcelona where they respected each other and spent hours discussing tactics. It was Mourinho, then assistant to Bobby Robson, who singled Guardiola out for his leadership skills.

“We did talk about things when we both had doubts, and we would exchange ideas, but I don’t remember it as something which defined our relationship,” recalled Guardiola. “He was Mr Robson’s assistant and I was a player.”

They met again as rival managers after Mourinho was brought in at Real Madrid expressly to stop Guardiola’s brilliant Barcelona in 2010.

There they frequently crossed swords in the media. In 2011, after one spat, Guardiola refined his assessment of their past relationship at Barça as “friendship, well, no, not quite friendship, but a working relationship.”

Watch: Head to head Mourinho vs Guardiola

Manchester should only benefit from the renewal of Pep versus Jose, as the latest venue for their rivalry. Tourist bookings will be up – and not just among the thousands of wealthy Swedes who follow Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s career.

The visitors will find a very different place from the decaying backwater damned by El Pais in 1994. Now, the same paper rates Manchester as the British city which has come out best from the 2008 economic crisis: “capitalising on hope, betting on illusion and investment.”

It talks of it voting against Brexit, new hotels and homes being built in the centre, the airport and of Manchester – which is now home to thousands of Spaniards – being the most powerful city in the country after London. Not that it is going overboard.

“Not everything is rosy, even if it is a gay capital,” writes El Pais. “Manchester has the worst teeth in the country and the largest number of percentages of preventable deaths. But if you look at the soccer, the world is envious.”

Nobody is pretending that Manchester is New York. Even the footballers who move to the city don’t tend to stay around as they did in previous generations. Billy Meredith, Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton, Paddy Crerand, Malcolm Allison, Denis Law, Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane and Bryan Robson all made Manchester their home.

More recent arrivals from further afield have not stayed in Manchester, or rather the upmarket Cheshire palaces which are the residences of choice today. Although the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Anderson and Ruud van Nistelrooy have kept homes near the city where they enjoyed some of the greatest moments of their lives.

United and City both won a cup last season, but their league form frustrated, hence the arrival of football’s two most potent magicians. They’ll meet next Monday in Beijing in an 80,000 capacity stadium, then attentions will turn closer to home.

“The world looks to Mou and Pep,” concluded El Pais on Sunday. “The world looks to Manchester.”

Watch: Head to head Mourinho vs Guardiola


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