Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola: Respect for Jose Mourinho is undiminished

Pep Guardiola insists he respects Jose Mourinho highly despite their differences.

The two old foes clash again as Guardiola's Manchester City make the short trip to Old Trafford for a keenly-anticipated derby against United on Sunday.

Guardiola and Mourinho have a fierce rivalry dating back to their times in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

Both have enjoyed highly successful managerial careers but their styles contrast, with Guardiola never compromising his attacking philosophies but Mourinho far more willing to take a pragmatic route to glory.

Any animosity between the pair was hidden from view as they settled into new roles in Manchester last season but Mourinho may have fuelled fresh tension this weekend.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Portuguese accused City players of going to ground too easily. He also suggested he would be punished if he wore a political symbol such as the yellow ribbon Guardiola has been sporting recently in support of imprisoned Catalan politicians.

It now remains to be seen if the truce holds but at his own conference, which took place almost simultaneously on Friday, Guardiola would not engage in any verbal jousting.

Guardiola, whose side hold an eight-point lead over United at the top of the table, said: "We have faced each other many times in big moments.

"My opinion about what he has done as a manager will never change. I know the way we see the game is different but we love to compete, we love to win games.

"Believe me, it is not a special situation when I beat somebody's teams at all. I want to win but when I lose I accept the defeat and I try to learn from that for the next one. Then we move on.

"I respect a lot of my colleagues, Jose as well. We want to beat each other but what happens on the pitch happens on the pitch. After that it is over."

At one time Guardiola was thought to be among the leading contenders to take over at United from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson, who retired in 2013, wrote that he even hinted as much to the Spaniard himself during a meeting in New York in 2012. Guardiola at the time was enjoying a sabbatical after leaving Barcelona.

But Guardiola, who eventually decided to return to football with Bayern Munich, says he does not remember such a thing being mentioned.

"If he suggested to me something like I go to Old Trafford, I don't remember," he said. "I know he has said that but I don't remember.

"We spoke about life, about football, the Premier League but he never sent me a message under the table to say, 'You know maybe United...' or something like that.

"It was just two friends, good friends, colleagues in football, talking about many things.

"I remember when he spoke a little bit fast it was difficult to understand him! But it was nice because he chose an amazing restaurant and, of course, he paid."

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