MANCHESTER, England – It’s not all bad news for Jose Mourinho. The Tottenham Hotspur The manager can still claim to be the last coach to claim a win over Pep Guardiola Manchester Cityalthough that distinction may not have brought much comfort when Spurs returned to London afterward a 3-0 defeat to the runaway Premier League leaders on Saturday.
But with Tottenham facing a fight to finish in the top four this season after their fourth loss in five league games, the fading memory of that 2-0 home win against City last November gives Mourinho at least the right to say that he still knows how to beat the best. Unfortunately for Mourinho, this has become his rivalry with Guardiola: a fading memory. As Guardiola wins trophies and breaks records and then threatens to repeat it all in City, Mourinho gets into a fight with himself to prove he isn’t yesterday’s man. Such victories last November are still important to Mourinho.
If he beats his old rival in the Carabao Cup Final in April (his 1-0 win with Manchester United October 2016 will be the last time Guardiola was eliminated from the competition. Mourinho will deserve to celebrate another trophy, but the one-off Special One doesn’t get any closer when the biggest prizes are given out these days, and the Carabao Cup could be as good as it gets.
Guardiola has won this special trophy in each of the last three seasons. It was the first leg of a domestic triplet two years ago, and City is well on its way to do the same this year. You can even win the Champions League. And after taking the 16th straight win in all competitions with that win over Spurs, who can seriously bet against City who beat the board this season?
But that’s the glittering road ahead of us: Trophies and history lurk at every turn.
There was a time when Mourinho was on a similar path during his first spell with Chelsea and then International, but now it’s all about Guardiola. This was the 25th meeting between the two men in all competitions for all clubs, and Guardiola has won 11 versus Mourinho’s seven, with the other seven reaching the level. For Mourinho’s sake, let’s not talk about the number of trophies.
At Etihad on Saturday, Mourinho’s team was dominated from start to finish – with the exception of the 14th minute when Harry Kane sent a free kick against the city crossbar – and the home team could have won by a larger margin.
“A fresh team against a very tired team,” said Mourinho after the game. “But a team that started the game very well.
“I’m very, very happy with the attitude of the players. I’ve had people on the pitch who played two hours a few days ago and gave everything.”
Mourinho at least showed ambition with his starting line-up by courageously selecting four strikers in Kane, Erik Lamela, Son of Heung-Min and Lucas Mourabut it made no difference. He and his team still had no answer to the waves of City attacks as Ilkay Gundogan scored again twice after scoring two hits Liverpool last week after Rodris kicked off the penalty spot.
The rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho has started to really swing in favor of the Manchester City manager. Getty
But there was never any hint of a repeat of the win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Mourinho’s team came out on top with 20 points from nine games. Since then, they have scored 16 out of 42 possible points, falling to eighth place.
City have won 13 out of 15 league games and drawn two since losing to Spurs. Back then they were only in eleventh place, but now they are seven points ahead of second place at the top Leicester City, with a game in hand on Brendan Rodgers team. Manchester United can close the gap to five points by winning at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, but City are playing their game in hand Everton on Wednesday and a win at Goodison Park will surely mark the end of this season’s title race.
The concern for the pursuers is that City won this game so well – both forward and defensively. They didn’t have to go into top gear to get the three points, and victory was achieved without the injured Kevin De Bruyne and with Ruben Dias and Sergio Aguero just fit enough to sit on the substitutes’ bench.
City’s first goal came after 22 minutes from the penalty spot Rodri made it 1-0 after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fouled Gundogan.
“A modern punishment,” said Mourinho. “A modern punishment is one where even if you touch a nail it can be a punishment.”
Davinson Sanchez City denied a goal block from Gundogan’s close-range shot one second after 42 minutes, but it was on the report at the start of the second half when he defeated Hugo Lloris with a tame blow with the left foot. Gundogan’s second goal in the 66th minute was superb – the Germany International controlled a long release by goalkeepers Ederson before defeating Sanchez and then shooting past Lloris.
The game was won by then and the title race has a similar feeling of inevitability. City could lose again before the end of the season but it’s hard to see them lose seven or eight points.
City and Guardiola march on, but Mourinho and Spurs hobble. The Spurs boss has little to smile about at the moment – apart from the fact that he is the last man to defeat Guardiola.