Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho is possibly the most hyped and controversial football managerial rivalry in the 21st century, mostly due to their time at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, after rooting for the same side during their time at Camp Nou.
Both managers, though, came to the city with contrasting fortunes. Pep guided Bayern Munich to three successive Bundesliga titles and Jose was sacked for a second time by Chelsea. The Spaniard and the Portuguese were the highest spenders respectively in the Premier League last summer, with £162m and £145m invested in recruitment (as reported by the Guardian).
The infamous rivals have endured two unsuccessful seasons in Manchester in their own ways. Pep was humbled by his lowest ever finish in a league in his career, finishing 3rd, 15 points behind champions Chelsea and without any silverware.
Jose, on the other hand, has had a season which could've spectacularly imploded (they spent a shocking 101 consecutive days fixed at 6th place) if they wouldn't have won the Europa League. Finishing 24 points behind his former club at 6th, it was an embarrassing league performance from Mourinho's side.
It is worth noting that both United and City, after their business in the summer, were tipped to finish first and second by virtually every football expert to provide an opinion on the top four. The bookmakers' odds before the start of last season is laughing stock now.
Contrasting squads from the past
As a result of them being bruised and battered in their respective campaigns, it has given them time to truly understand the potential and capabilities of their squads. One striking similarity between both the managers is their legacy of star-studded squads.
Pep Guardiola had Lionel Messi and Jose Mourinho had Cristiano Ronaldo during their time in Spain, which says enough. Two footballers widely considered to be the best to have ever graced a football pitch. This is the level and calibre of players that the managers were privileged to have (not all of them, of course, Messi and Ronaldo are just examples).
Guardiola further went on to have the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm to coach at the Allianz Arena, to further make this case.
If it were a case of just having star players, neither team would fall short of making the cut with players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovi, Kevin De Bruyne, Paul Pogba, Sergio Kun Aguero, David Silva and so on. But that isn't the case.
It is about having players who can be considered 'elite', balanced evenly over the pitch. Guardiola used to depend on players such as Jordi Alba and David Alaba, but more recently, he relied on the ageing duo of Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy. Likewise, Mourinho had John Terry and Sergio Ramos, but had to make do with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Both managers would want potential overhauls, only varying in degree. City are the likelier club to tamper with the squad with a greater impact in terms of numbers, credit to their unhealthily high average age. This was signalled strongly by the successive departures of Jesús Navas (31), Gaël Clichy (31), Pablo Zabaleta (32), Bacary Sagna (34) and Willy Caballero (35) in the span of 48 hours.
Zabaleta, in particular, is a surprise departure after 9 successful years at the Etihad, symbolising the exodus like no other termination. The Argentine was one of their longest serving players in the modern City era. He was part of the 'old guard' which is now being revamped.
31-year-old Wayne Rooney is widely expected to leave Manchester United come summer, with the England captain barely getting a kick of the ball in the first team. One of Mourinho's few successes in his first year was phasing Rooney out of the starting XI and has made the picture as vivid as possible for Wazza.
Zlatan Ibrahimovi (35) is yet to be offered a contract extension at the club. Likewise, many of the squad players at United are unsure of their futures at the club. The likes of Carrick, Young and Shaw are still in the dark.
City's Silva 2.0 sparks the war
Manchester City's stealthy, smart and crude acquisition of Bernardo Silva, for all its merits, is a statement signing. He was one of the chief architects of the Monaco side that put the Citizens to the sword by smashing six goals against them, albeit only qualifying via the away goal system.
The £43m man was the pick of a prodigy-led Monaco side and now he is going to don the blue of Manchester, which has ominous implications.
When Leroy Sane joined City from Schalke, it was revealed that one of the influential factors in the deal was the fact that Guardiola and his coaching staff were renowned for their coaching of left-footed players. That might sound trivial for a few moments until the realisation of Pep's transformation of Messi comes to mind.
Bernardo was nicknamed 'little-Messi' during his time at the Benfica youth set-up, the Portuguese can now work up close with the man who is responsible for the creation of his monstrous idol. He is left footed, unpredictable and definitely one of the finest playmakers in Europe.
Meanwhile, United's links with Antoine Griezmann are stronger than ever and was further fuelled by the Frenchman's comments on the situation. 27-goal-Andrea Belotti is reported to be one of Mourinho's primary targets for the summer.
Bringing a player who wouldn't cost less than the £80m mark to a new league is always risky, but 'Il Gallo' has created quite a reputation for himself. The Italian is a throwback to a classic robust No. 9 and looks like someone who can hold his own in the English top flight. He seems perfect to aid United’s cause in the box. The two primary targets alone would set any team back by a massive £160m going by the nature of transfers in the modern era.
Both Manchester clubs are fighting for overlapping targets such as Monaco's star men Benjamin Mendy and Fabinho, showing clear statements of intent. With the former El Clasico managers being backed by two of the richest, financially stable clubs in world football, an assault on the transfer market is inevitable. The Manchester clubs alone are reportedly expected to spend £350-400m between them.
Two revolutions waiting to happen in one city, 7 kilometres apart. Two expensive squad revamps led by two of football's most coveted, free-spending coaches. This might be one of the most explosive transfer windows in Premier League history.