Mourinho, Guardiola stay cordial ahead of Manchester derby
ABS-CBN Sports on Sep 10, 2016 08:22 AM
Manchester City's new manager Pep Guardiola applauds during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday Aug. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Expect a pre-game handshake and even a post-game glass of wine between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho when they renew their coaching rivalry in the Manchester derby on Saturday.
After years of spats and bitterness during their time together in Spain, there's been a healthy respect between the two managers since they took charge of Manchester City and Manchester United during the offseason. That extended to Friday, when they spoke ahead of the most high-profile match of the Premier League season so far.
Insisting there was "no problem" between them, Mourinho described Guardiola as a "very good manager" and said he wasn't bothered about the media frenzy surrounding their first head-to-head since 2013.
Guardiola also downplayed any tension, saying he had "a lot of respect" for Mourinho and that he will always try to learn from him, echoing comments he made at his presentation as City manager in July.
The pair worked together at Barcelona under Bobby Robson, when Guardiola was a player and Mourinho was a member of the backroom staff. They have also met each other 16 times as coaches, with Guardiola winning seven games with Barcelona and Bayern Munich and Mourinho winning three games with Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
"The last meeting with Madrid (and) Barcelona was not easy," Guardiola said, "but we met each other two or three weeks ago in the Premier League managers (meeting) and we spoke fluently, with Ronald Koeman, with Tony Pulis, so it was OK."
And about that glass of wine after the match at Old Trafford, as was often shared between Mourinho and Alex Ferguson?
"I will accept if he invites me," Guardiola said.
Mourinho said he was more concerned with City's players than Guardiola. City has won its first three games of the league season, as has United.
"They are a very good team. They were a very good team last season, two, three, four seasons ago. Maybe since the new owners arrived at Man City," Mourinho said. "It's a very good squad. It's a very good team. They had very good managers. They have now a very good manager. They had always very good players. They bought some more very good players.
"So, they are what they are since I return to England in 2013. They're a title contender and we have to respect them that way, that's for sure."
City will be without Sergio Aguero, its leading striker and top scorer, because of suspension. Rather than make life easier for United, Mourinho said the absence of the Argentina striker makes his team's job even harder.
"When Aguero is available, we know Aguero plays. We know the formation, we know their dynamic. Nobody has doubts," Mourinho said.
"In this moment, he doesn't play and they have an amazing, rich squad in options. (Guardiola) can have many decisions, different decisions. ... We know they have so many options, so that for my players is more difficult. It feels a bit of a contradiction, but without Aguero it's more difficult."