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Mourinho & pep Guardiola rivalry is on

First they were friends, then they were enemies. Then everyone expected them to be enemies again – Manchester was never going to be big enough for the both of them.
But as Sunday's derby approaches the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola continues to do no more than simmer, both men, particularly the former, having so far had too many other battles to fight.

It's often forgotten how close they were at Barcelona when they first met. In a new film released today in five UK cities about Guardiola's time as Barcelona coach, midfielder Xavi recalls Mourinho buying into Barca's football philosophy.

He tells the makers of 'Take the ball, pass the ball' that Mourinho would take the positional play training sessions with the youth team and got on well with the senior players he would later take on as a bitter rival.

Mourinho's relationship with Guardiola was good and had things gone differently they might even have worked together. There was talk in Spain that Mourinho had planned to make Guardiola his number two if he had been given the top job at the Nou Camp.

When he did finally arrive in Spain and take charge of his first La Liga match it was as Real Madrid boss and it was not the triumphant return he had dreamed of. Neither was it revenge for him being overlooked for the job.

Instead he had his very own Black Monday. The game was played on the first working day of the week because of Sunday elections and what followed was a landslide for Guardiola and Barcelona. They won 5-0, and Mourinho admitted afterwards it was the biggest and bitterest loss of his career. It didn't help that it was in front of an estimated global audience of 400 million. There were no other games that day, everyone saw it.

Of the November 2010 game Xavi once told Sportsmail: 'The 5-0 was the best game I have ever played in. There are more important games like the World Cup final but the feeling of superiority was incredible – it is one thing to have it against another team but against Real Madrid? They hardly touched the ball.'

The sense of superiority got under Mourinho's skin and any chance that he would try to take on Guardiola by just producing a better football team were gone forever.

Barcelona players even gave themselves a minute's ovation in the dressing room. Mercifully for Mourinho there is enough distance between the home and away dressing rooms at the Nou Camp for the noise to have not reached him but he will have recoiled at the various mentions of that moment since.

It coloured Mourinho's entire approach to exactly how he would go about bringing down Guardiola. He took it out on others at first targeting the perceived weakness of Karim Benzema and demanding another striker.

When then sporting director Jorge Valdano blocked that move Mourinho made sure he left the club at the end of his first season. But he got around to Guardiola in the end – there was no escape from their confrontation when that first season threw up four Clasicos in two weeks and it was then that Mourinho and Guardiola had their famous press-room showdown.

First Mourinho sarcastically told the world's media that while before there had been two types of coach — one that moaned about the bad decisions that went against him, and one that didn't — Guardiola was now the only member of a third group of coaches who complained even when the refereeing decision was right.

It was a reference to Guardiola highlighting a decision in the Copa del Rey final when Pedro had been correctly flagged offside when only being the wrong side of the last defender by millimetres.

When it was his turn to address the media Guardiola might as well have swaggered into the Nou Camp conference room with 'The Good, The Bad, The Ugly' soundtrack playing in the background. 'He's the f*cking boss here, let him have his personal Champions League [of the press conferences],' said Guardiola.

What seemed most to have riled him was that Mourinho had completely forgotten their time together. In the 20-minute rant he said: 'I just want to recall that we were together for four years. I know him and he knows me. And that is what I want to hold on to.'
It was a striking reference to their time together. Just as striking a reference as Xavi's in 'Take the Ball, Pass the Ball.'

They were amigos when they first met. Then they became the best of enemies. In Manchester it has been cordial so far – a measure of how Mourinho's team has not been able to compete with City.

It will be a good sign for United supporters if the temperature starts to rise between them again. The closer they are in the Premier League table the more mileage Mourinho will see in get under his rival's skin.
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james dare

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