Forget Mourinho, Guardiola’s Reign Will Eclipse Sir Alex’s Time at Manchester United
November 8, 2018
Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager in Premier League history. It’s something I accepted years ago. Manchester United were the best team with the best players and the best man at the helm you could ask for.
I remember watching the City vs United derby, wishing that we’d somehow get away with a point, let alone a win. Even when the Sheik Mansour takeover happened, I never thought we would be able to match the dominance of those famous sides. Then a certain Catalonian joined. The power, it seems, has now shifted.
It was a love story in the making. Ever since Mansour’s acquisition of Manchester City, they’ve strived to reach a high level of consistency and have tried to acquire all the biggest names out there to accomplish their goal. In the modern era, there is no name bigger than Guardiola. City moved for Pep the minute he announced his departure from Barcelona, but he opted for a Bavarian adventure instead with regular Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Even after this, the Pep pursuit was relentless, with City pulling out all the stops to finally get their man three years later.
In Guardiola’s relatively brief managerial career, he has amassed a trophy haul that puts most other managers to shame. His tactics have been revolutionary which has lead to domestic domination in every league he’s been in, and he has overseen the development of some of the best players in the world.
And now he’s doing it in England, despite many ‘experts’ proclaiming that he had no chance of replicating anything near his Barcelona success. When he took over, City had an ageing squad and many players who simply weren’t up to the required standard necessary to build a dynasty. They were still a top-four team, but only just.
The first season was a rebuilding job, bringing in several young players like Leroy Sane, John Stones and Gabriel Jesus, all of whom were slowly implanted into the side. Whilst it wasn’t the immediate success many Citizens were hoping for; Pep’s debut season was filled with signs that showed him exactly what he needed to do to take City to his desired level. In just the following season, Pep would go on to oversee the greatest team the Premier League has ever seen; The Centurions.
This statement isn’t just an opinion, it’s plain to see in the numbers. City made new records for consecutive overall wins (20), consecutive league wins (18) and consecutive away wins (11). They also scored more goals than any other team in the league’s history (106), had the most wins in a single season (32), the largest winning margin of points (19), largest goal difference (79) and even the youngest ever Premier League winner in future City legend Phil Foden. The list of records they broke last year is exhaustive. Yes, they had spectacular players and yes, they did spend more than anyone else, but it doesn’t change the fact that none of this would be possible if Pep wasn’t in charge.
Guardiola obviously can’t touch Sir Alex’s legacy, he’s only been in the league for a few seasons now and with the workings of modern football, he presumably won’t spend the rest of his career at City. However, dig deeper into any of United’s Premier League seasons and they don’t get anywhere the numbers that City racked up last year. Some might cite City’s total success as a sign that the division’s quality is dropping, but this simply isn’t the case.
With more prize money for places, lower sides have never been granted a bigger opportunity to compete with the big boys. Take any team from the current top ten and they’d thrive in yesteryears divisions. Put this fact into perspective: there hasn’t been a single champion to retain a Premier League title since Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2009. This is what makes Pep’s accomplishments with City that much more impressive, he’s completely overturned the trend of close competition and it only took him a year to do so.
Let the Trophies Do The Talking
What about the honours then? Ferguson managed for 36 years and won a total of 34 trophies. This isn’t a small amount by any means, it’s almost better than any other manager’s record in history. Pep isn’t just any manager though. He sits a fair way away from Ferguson’s trophy haul at 22 but has managed that feat in just a decade. It’s hard to see him sitting at that number for much longer and even after he’s left Man City, you’d expect him to add to his cabinet. He’s had a third of the time Sir Alex had, but he’s already quickly approaching the Scot’s level.
The two men only faced off against each other on two occasions, both on the grandest stage of them all. The Champions League finals of 2009 and 2011 saw the same teams battle it out, Pep’s Barcelona and Ferguson’s United going head to head to establish who was the top dog. Guardiola won on both occasions. You can’t judge a career that spanned over three decades on two matches, but it does say something about Pep that even Ferguson couldn’t get near his Barcelona side when it mattered most.
Scraping the Barrels With Criticism
Yet the same, predictable criticisms have persisted. ‘He’s only ever managed ready-made teams’ is a common one, despite the fact Barcelona and City finished 3rd and 4th respectively the seasons before he joined. ‘He’s just a chequebook manager’ is a personal favourite of mine, even though no Guardiola signings make the top ten highest transfer fees of all time and only two City players make the top twenty. I wonder if the same questions would be asked by the same people if he had moved to the red side of Manchester and experienced the same level of success? Or would they sit silent, in awe of just how magnificent his team played?
Sir Alex achieved a level of consistency and longevity that will never be repeated. He made Manchester United what they are today and crafted sides that will last forever in footballing history. However, records are made to be broken, the top dogs are there to be taken down and no empire lasts forever. Ferguson enjoyed decades as the best in the business, but now it’s time for people to consider a different name. It’s the same name that has succeeded year in, year out, no matter what team, league or nationality he’s helmed. It’s the same name world class players say when they’re asked who they want to play for. Put simply, it’s Pep
Cyrus has been writing about sports and many other topics for major publications over the past five years. Now working in digital marketing, he spends his days arguing over football and dreaming of his beloved Manchester City winning the champions league.