Both Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola are used to making history, and in this respect the new Premier League season is unlikely to bring anything new.
What is unusual, however, is that Mourinho or Guardiola (or potentially both) will make history for the wrong reasons this season, as these two giants look to establish their clubs at the pinnacle of the English game.
Here, we will ask which manager is likely to achieve his objectives in the months ahead, and who will endure another blow to their hard-earned reputation for excellence?
Addressing the second season syndrome for Mourinho and Guardiola
In simple terms, the second season has become something of a calling card for both Mourinho and Guardiola during their careers. A quick glance at their respective records confirms this, with both having won a domestic title during the second season of every managerial position that they have held.
In Guardiola’s case, the second second triumph has usually seen his team retain their title, with last year being the first in which the Spaniard failed to win a domestic league during his debut season in charge of a club. In contrast, Mourinho’s triumphs have occasionally followed seasons of transition, particularly during his second stint at Chelsea and his tenure as Real Madrid manager.
The latter success was arguably the most impressive of all, as his side romped to the La Liga title in 2012 and toppled a Guardiola-inspired Barcelona side that many deemed unbeatable.
This reveals a great deal about the demands that each manager puts on their players, of course, while also showcasing the tactical flexibility, discipline and loyalty that they require from their charges. As such, it can often take some time for players to buy into their methodologies and playing philosophies, while the managers will also utilise one or two transfer windows to refine their squads.
Both managers have certainly been busy this summer, having spent well in excess of £300 million between them in the pursuit of domestic and European honours.
The challenges facing Mourinho and Guardiola
Interestingly, the respective transfer activity of both clubs offers an intriguing insight into how both Mourinho and Guardiola see the game, with the former adopting a pragmatic approach to sourcing talent and the latter increasingly keen on identifying new ways to embellish and add value to his squad.
So, while Mourinho was busy signing tried and trusted performers with innate knowledge of the Premier League, Guardiola was reported by Goal as saying that he signed new goalkeeper Ederson due in part to his “quality in the goal kicks” and “ability to put the ball in the other box.”
While there is more logic to Mourinho’s approach, history tells us that Guardiola’s eye for the unusual and attention to detail is key to his success. In truth, however, this season’s battle for glory and history will mostly come down to more simple measures, such as the ability of each manager to harness the individual talent at their disposal and correct the obvious faults that were evident last season.
For United, this means getting the very best from Lukaku and his fellow forwards, while being more ruthless in front of goal and turning potential draws into comfortable wins. For City, the challenge is to create a more cohesive and focused defensive unit, while bedding in new signings and helping Ederson to acclimatise to the Premier League.
If either side fails in these objectives, they will unable to mount a successful title challenge in an increasingly competitive top flight.
Will Mourinho, Guardiola or both fall short this season?
It is the competitive nature of the Premier League that could ultimately undermine both managers’ attempts this season, with Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and defending champions Chelsea also in the title mix-up and capable of defying Mourinho’s and Guardiola’s tilt at history.
Far from just being there to be made, however, history can provide us with a genuine insight into the future and it would certainly come as no surprise if either Manchester United or Manchester City lifted the Premier League title in May.
Mourinho arguably has a competitive edge over his rival, not least because he has won titles after a season of transition and knows what it takes to create a winning Premier League outfit. In the rough and tumble of Premier League action, this could well make the difference and enable Mourinho to continue his most impressive of records.