09 Sep Jose and me
Pep Guardiola insisted his relationship with Jose Mourinho has mellowed enough for them to share a glass of wine after their first Manchester derby.
The personal animosity between the two men bubbled over on a number of occasions during a stormy three-year period when they were on opposing sides of the Barcelona-Real Madrid divide.
Now, three years later, they find themselves about to pit their wits against each other in another of world football’s more high-profile derbies.
Asked if he would join Mourinho for a drink after Saturday lunchtime’s match at Old Trafford, Guardiola said: “I’ll accept if he invites me.”
The pair first met 20 years ago when Mourinho joined Sir Bobby Robson’s backroom team at Barcelona, where Guardiola was a senior player for his home club.
The Catalan said: “The last period in Madrid, Barcelona was not easy for both of us but we met each other two or three weeks ago at the Premier League managers’ (meeting) and we spoke fluently with Ronald Koeman, with Tony Pulis and so on, and it was correct. That’s all.”
Guardiola has only watched one previous Manchester derby all the way through, last season’s 1-0 win for United at the Etihad Stadium when he had already signed the contract to become City manager.
His time to soak up the pre-match atmosphere has also been limited and he is reserving judgement on how the fixture compares to previous derbies in which he has been involved.
The 45-year-old said: “In Barcelona, in Madrid every year was the most beautiful derby in the world. Let me live this derby and after I can tell you how it can compare with, in Spain Barcelona-Madrid, and Munich-Borussia Dortmund.
“For the millions on both sides I think it is quite similar, a lot of people talking about good things and bad things, a thousand minutes of analysis of what’s going to happen, and that is nice.
“For the painters, for the writers, it would be amazing to do their jobs and a lot of people talk about their books, their talent.
“We are fortunate to be here and live that experience. I’m so happy to be here and to live for the first time in my life a derby in the Premier League and we are going to try to do our best.”
Guardiola finds himself up against not just one ghost of his past in Mourinho, but also United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede was signed by Guardiola for Barcelona in 2010 but their relationship deteriorated and he was loaned to AC Milan after one season.
Ibrahimovic, who has already scored four goals for United, has previously described Guardiola as a coward and said in his autobiography: “If Mourinho brightens up the room, Guardiola pulls down the curtains.”
“I have a lot of respect for Zlatan and what he has done in the football world in his career,” said Guardiola.
“He has had a big impact in what he did everywhere and he is an amazing talent, especially on the pitch.
“He is one of the best players and the best players have an impact. The way they arrive at clubs is immediately, so the big players don’t have to understand the league or need time.”
Three players could make their City debuts, with Claudio Bravo set to play in goal following his move from Barcelona last month.
“Claudio is okay,” said Guardiola.
“He had a little bit of a problem in his leg but he trained the last two days. He is fit, he is ready. This kind of player, 32 or 33 years old, has the experience.”
German duo Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan could also play but captain Vincent Kompany looks set to have to wait for his first appearance of the season.
“Vincent is training but we are waiting for the doctor for the analysis of his blood test,” said Guardiola.
“We don’t want to take too much risk after what happened in the past. We want to make sure that when he comes back he is 100 per cent fit.”
Guardiola will also be without star striker Sergio Aguero, who begins a three-match ban for elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid.
Kelechi Iheanacho is the only out-and-out replacement available but the likes of Nolito, Kevin De Bruyne or Raheem Sterling could be deployed further forward.