As we revel in its awesomeness and get set to enjoy yet another thrilling contest of football, the men who have the envious burden of putting on the shirts and playing on the beautifully crafted pitch are making final preparations. Their jobs will unquestionably have been detailed to them down to the last syllable, courtesy of the real men pulling the strings–the managers of the two football clubs.
Their pre-match pressers are almost as entertaining as the game itself. And their sideline antics, well, the lot of them have made such a tomfoolery of this obsession in modern day managers that a new vocabulary entry is almost guaranteed to be dawning upon the Webster dictionary. Vicente del Bosque may have attributed Sergio Busquets as being a visionary through whom you can see the entire game, but if you watch Guardiola (on the sidelines) for half as long, you will get the full nature of the game’s progression–and then some.
And as for Mourinho, the less said the better.
Both these managers will surely go down in history as two of the best ever to have graced the beautiful game, the question, however, then becomes this: who is the better?
The answer to that million-dollar question is anything but answerable at this stage of both men’s careers (though interestingly enough one–who shall remain nameless–has had the pleasure of a sacking more often than he has beaten the other). They still have plenty to give–plenty to win.
However, the Manchester derby may be the ultimate test of the two’s managerial nous. Both clubs have a seemingly unlimited budget in transfers, and neither have a flawless lineup. In other words, Guardiola now does not have Messi to save himself (as Masche will testify his countryman often does). Similarly, Mourinho doesn’t have Ronaldo. The two do not possess the world’s best players in nearly every position, like they did at Barcelona and Real Madrid. And this provides the perfect platform for us to see what each can do with the available resources.
The battle in midfield will be key, as Mourinho and Guardiola have both turned the ordinary into the extraordinary with Marouane Fellaini and Fernandinho. The two holding midfielders have been a revelation so far this season, especially the Belgian, who’s been much criticized since his initial move from the Toffees 3 seasons ago. His numbers have drastically improved from last season, but then again, when one plays a player in his proper position (i.e. NOT play a midfielder as a forward), that is the expected end product.
As for Fernandinho, he has become one of Pep’s favs at City due to his versatility and level of comfort on the ball. For most of the Cityzens’ games so far, he’s dropped in and filled the hole made by Stones’ adventurous runs from central defence. It has been a tactic that has worked out brilliantly so far, as the England-international has slowly regained the composure that made him such a hot property at the end of the 2014/15 season.
Speaking of regaining one’s composure, Raheem Sterling has looked, surprisingly, like a player actually worth close to half what City paid for him a summer ago. His decisiveness in front of goal was one of his (many) weaknesses last season. So far this campaign, though, it has been one of his (many) strengths. Guardiola must have said something in his ear, because Sterling will come up with the match-winner on Saturday if things continue as is. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is anything but usual.
You know somebody for whom it is usual? Marcus Rashford.
Honestly, it is still mind-boggling to think that the youngster is yet to turn 19 (it’s a shame there’s no way to capitalize numbers). He’s been scoring goals like nobody’s business, and scoring them in such a way that it’s almost impossible for him not to be included in Saturday’s starting lineup. Oh, and also, he did score on his first Manchester derby. Add that to everything else the 18-year old has accomplished, and you tell me if he’s not a legitimate Ballon d’Or contender.