Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole has insisted that the upcoming Manchester derby is not all about the rivalry between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.
Mourinho and Guardiola generated a fierce rivalry during their tenures at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, and will lock horns for the first time in four years on Saturday.
Both managers come into the game with 100% starts to their time in Manchester, and now have the opportunity to lay down the first serious marker in this year’s title race.
Speaking on MUTV, Cole insisted the Manchester derby will always be about the two badges, rather than any managerial rivalry.
“A lot has been made about the two managers not getting on as well as people would expect but, ultimately, it’s about picking the best players for the derby game,” he said.
“Since Jose became United manager, he’s had a different outlook on things and has been very good. He wants his team to play well and play good football. Guardiola is doing the same sort of thing, he wants to get his methods across, and I think it makes it even more exciting.
“Both sides have started off so well and are looking like teams who can go on and win the Premier League. It’s an opportunity for both to put a marker down as it’s two teams who genuinely believe they can win the title this season.”
“Rashford has gone about his business nicely. He’s answering questions which is what you want him to do and it’s a decision the manager has to make. Watching him at the Etihad last season, his pace caused a hell of a lot of problems and Mourinho could turn around and play him because he knows what he can do. It’ll be interesting if he does go in [to the team] at the weekend.”
They may have not crossed swords for four years, but that immense rivalry, that conflict of style and attitude still burns brightly between Mourinho and Guardiola. Both managers would have been quietly planning a formula to topple the other long before they even came to Manchester. Every small tenet of Saturday’s contest has been planned with meticulous care, and in turn the derby is likely to be formed in the image of Mourinho and Guardiola.
And yet, as Cole says, regardless of who sits in the dugout, regardless of context, this is, above all, a Manchester derby. Yes, it may be underpinned by tactical nuance, but the bottom line will always state that, at 12:30pm on Saturday, a ruthless battle for pride gets underway.