The Premier League title race made in La Liga

Last season, when Manchester United appointed Jose Mourinho and Manchester City installed Pep Guardiola as their manager, there were inevitably huge expectations that the two managers were immediately about to start new football dynasties at their respective clubs.

As things turned out, it was Antonio Conte and Chelsea who usurped both Manchester clubs to claim the 2016-17 Premier League crown. Although Pep finished the campaign empty handed at City, Mou didn’t, becoming the first United boss to win major trophies in his debut season, with the EFL Cup and Europa League double.

With the 2017-18 season now in full swing, a completely different picture is being painted. Indeed, the sheer dominance being displayed by both ourselves and Manchester City in the Premier League, bears striking parallels to the habitual duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga; hardly surprising given trajectory of both managers as rivals with Spain’s elite teams, whilst their two current clubs have the economic might to back their current ambitions in England.

The hugely impressive start to the season by both teams, plus their respective scoring records and thrashings handed out to opponents so far, make City and United popular choices for live betting markets, especially to score over 2.5 goals in matches given their net-busting performances.

Should this dominant form at the top continue, the focus will be keener than ever on the next ‘Battle of Manchester’ set to take place in December at Old Trafford. Head-to-head, there’s little to split Mourinho and Guardiola in terms of last season’s battles in English football. A win apiece and a draw, although it could be argued that Mourinho ultimately won the war for silverware, as one of those wins against City was on route to winning the EFL Cup.

In Spain and ‘El Clásico’ encounters between Barcelona and Real Madrid, the numbers would suggest Guardiola had the upper hand during two seasons of direct confrontation, with five wins, four draws and two defeats against Mourinho. However, the latter had the last laugh when a crucial victory at the Camp Nou effectively sealed the 2010-11 La Liga title. Just a matter of weeks later, Guardiola decided it was time to walk away from Barcelona.

Starkly contrasting philosophies on display in Spain, are now more apparent than ever in this season’s battle for the English title. Last season’s expectations and encounters proved to be somewhat of an anti-climax, but both managers have now had a full season to imprint their requirements and to address deficiencies with important signings.

Heavily influenced by the ideology brought to Barcelona by Dutch legend, Johan Cruyff, a certain way of playing and performing was always not only expected at the Camp Nou, but demanded. From there, Guardiola’s view is that the results will follow and the core philosophy is non-negotiable. Compared to his experiences in Spain and Germany, however, the Premier League is arguably much stronger competitively.

By contrast, Mourinho refuses to be limited by any particular idea or philosophy, both methodical in preparation and deeply analytical in his tactical approach, preferring to win at all costs. Content to nullify opposition teams and see his own side maximise their own strengths for any given encounter, if that means winning ugly then so be it. This makes United far more flexible and adaptable compared to City.

Whilst Guardiola now has the tools to fully implement his ‘Made in Spain’ approach at City, there are times when such an approach won’t be enough to break down stubborn Premier League opponents. Although Mourinho could probably care less about the past in Spain, there are certainly parallels between his Real Madrid side that toppled Guardiola’s dominance with Barcelona, and his current United side looking to power its way to the Premier League title, by any means necessary. In the long haul, the latter could prove to be the most effective.

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