Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho mellowing outside pressure of fierce rivalries

Andy Hampson and George Sessions, PA

Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have indicated their once fierce and bitter rivalry has mellowed.

There was no love lost between the pair when they managed Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively a decade ago.

It was a recurring and explosive duel that had the potential to flare up again when both arrived in Manchester, Guardiola to take charge at City and Mourinho at United, in 2016.

Yet that was when the truce appeared to begin, with neither particularly looking to reopen old wounds in the two years Mourinho was at Old Trafford.

Now, as they prepare to face each other again on Saturday with Mourinho’s current side Tottenham visiting the Etihad Stadium, there appears to be a healthy respect between two men who were once colleagues at Barcelona.

Mourinho, who was on the backroom staff at the Nou Camp during Guardiola’s playing career, said: “The problem with us coaches is that it’s not easy to develop or to cultivate friendships, or develop relations because we don’t see each other.

“We see each other before the game for two minutes and, after the game, another two minutes. It’s difficult.

Mourinho and Guardiola were neighbours in Manchester from 2016-18
Mourinho and Guardiola were neighbours in Manchester from 2016-18 (Martin Rickett/PA)

“But with Pep, I keep the three years where we worked together. We saw each other every day, we celebrated together the titles that we won. We didn’t cry but we were disappointed together when we lost something important. Great periods of his life – him as a player, myself as a young assistant.

“After that I can have only good feelings with him, I don’t have any bad feeling.

“There are moments in life where we don’t forget things. One of the things I don’t forget was when my father died (in 2017).

“He (Guardiola) knew how important my dad was to me. He made a call. By the way, today would be my dad’s birthday, 83 today. And of course when his mum died (in 2020), I replied the same way.

  • Games: 24

  • Guardiola wins: 10

  • Mourinho wins: 7

“There are things people don’t see, we don’t need to share. I am sharing because I have now the opportunity, but I only have good memories of him when we worked together.”

The pair may not yet be planning a meal together, with Guardiola admitting they bumped into each other “once or twice” in restaurants but “were not having the moments to find each other” when they were near-neighbours in Manchester.

However, the Spaniard is much preferring the lower-key nature of their current relationship and has no interest in reigniting a rivalry with comments in the media.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: “Maybe you expect it, or like it, but the situations are natural. Why should we have a rivalry with all the managers?

Guardiola's City side host Spurs on Saturday
Guardiola’s City side host Spurs on Saturday (Peter Powell/PA)

“Before (a game) I’m calm, I prefer not to be involved. I have a good relationship with him. We can agree or disagree but it’s not a big problem.

“His business is Tottenham, or before, United. Mine is City. We have to handle our teams and backroom staff and we don’t have time to know about the other club and could not care less.

“The only concern is what we have to do tomorrow. I prefer this, I don’t like being in the limelight. I’m here to talk football.”

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