José Mourinho’s United priorities
Answering the Pep question
As Real Madrid and Barcelona head coaches from 2010-12 Mourinho and Guardiola were in a two-club duel for La Liga so it was pragmatic to focus on the Catalan. Mourinho reasons that the Premier League is wide open and it would be counter-productive to centre again on his now north-west rival. However, if United find themselves in a race for the title against City, the temptation would again be to make this a personal battle.
2. Convincing fans he is not the new Louis van Gaal
Mourinho’s charm offensive started at his unveiling when he talked up aggressive football and dismissed the negative tactics that so bedevilled his predecessor’s tenure. Yet for the fans the fear remains that Mourinho’s sides do not tend to fly at the opposition in the finest United traditions. This preconception may have some truth but Mourinho’s best teams have plenty of goals in them. His Real Madrid champions of May 2012, say, scored a record 121 times, with a goal difference of plus 89.
3. Clearing the deadwood
Adnan Januzaj, Daley Blind, James Wilson, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera all appear in danger of the Mourinho axe. The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Mkhitaryan has increased competition and, the midfielder and auxiliary defender Blind apart, the bit-part players are all sure to wonder where they fit into the new manager’s 24-man squad.
4. Managing Marcus Rashford
The 18-year-old was a burst of light in the fog of Van Gaal’s final days. Rashford also sparkled on England duty and, while his cameo at the end of the 2-1 defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016 was short, it enhanced his reputation. How Mourinho uses him will be fascinating.
5. Finding a Europa League strategy
Will Mourinho go all out to win the second-tier competition? Or does the need to make United championship contenders come first? The latter seems likely, so expect to see sides sent out in Europe that include several fringe players for the slog of Thursday night football.
Pep Guardiola’s City priorities
Weathering Mourinho’s barbs
A rivalry that casts Guardiola as the genteel coach who plays the aristocratic stuff against Mourinho’s win-at-all-costs streetfighter is well documented. No doubt Guardiola is the calmer operator, yet might he be goaded by his truculent opposite number? It has happened only once before - in 2011 - but a season in English football can be long and the Catalan manager must be wary of rising to any provocation.
2. Implementing evolution, not revolution
“We will try‚“ is Guardiola’s message about translating his slick-passing style to these shores. Given his track record and the breadth of his vision, there seems no reason why City cannot replicate the patterns of Barça and Bayern. He may, though, require time – and time, as Guardiola notes, is a near extinct commodity in the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
3. Making a big call on Joe Hart
“At the moment there’s no doubt. He’s No1” was Guardiola’s surprisingly honest appraisal of Hart on arrival. But these hardly convincing words followed: “We’re always looking for the best option to create a better team. But I’m not concerned. I don’t worry about the performance of Joe Hart in the Euros. It’s important to know what is the quality – to analyse the quality and to decide what we are going to do with him.”
4. Reaching the Champions League proper
City were semi-finalists for the first time last season, so reaching the group stage should be a shoo-in, correct? Yet City are joined by Porto, Roma, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Villarreal, among others, while Shakhtar Donetsk, Ajax, Monaco and Olympiakos may also be in the draw if they negotiate the previous round. It could be tricky.
5. Finding a leader in Vincent Kompany’s absence
With the Belgian still recuperating, handing the captain’s armband to Yaya Touré would offer a clue to his standing with the new manager.
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