José Mourinho and Roberto Mancini may shake hands after their upcoming Champions League Group D fixture, but Mourinho should probably watch his back as he is walking away.
It's easy to imagine that Mancini was not particularly thrilled with reports that Mourinho was coming after his job at the end of March, according to msn.foxsports.com.
The timing was especially galling, as the report (initially released by Spanish-language outlet El Mundo Deportivo) was released the day before City took the pitch at the Etihad against Sunderland.
United did seize that chance two days hence with a 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers (match reports via espnfc.com.)
Did the reports of Mourinho's interest have any bearing on those results? Probably not.
City lost again at the Emirates the following week and then, famously, did not lose again for the remainder of the Premier League season (via soccernet.espn.go.com.)
Not surprisingly, reports linking Mourinho—or anyone for that matter—to the Manchester City managerial role dried up precipitously after Mancini's men won the Premier League by closing the season with six straight league wins, including a crucial derby victory over United.
But this is international football and the climate for managers always seems to be as fickle as the weather in, well, Manchester or Madrid.
Mancini again has City atop the Premier League, but somehow all Mourinho seems interested in talking about is the imminent demise of City's Champions League hopes.
"I think they are a team to win the competition, one of the teams to win it...I don't think that it is normal when you are out of the competition at a very early stage," Mourinho opined to the assembled press in advance of Real Madrid's appearance at Eastlands, according to The Guardian.
He did not stop there.
"This season they will be out," Mourinho declared. "I think they can win tomorrow and at Dortmund—why not? But eight points is not enough and I think they will be out for a second successive time and that must be difficult for them."
Mourinho may well be right, of course.
The mathematics of the situation are dire for City, as are City's prospects of a double against Madrid and Dortmund. And as the Independent points out at length, Mourinho's record in the Champions League is greater than Mancini's in both duration and success.
Still, this was a curious direction for Mourinho to take in advance of this game.
City's players and their manager know that advancing from Group D is all but a lost goal now. Mourinho could have kept quiet and hoped for a mundane draw or, given the strength of his side and the potential lack of motivation for City, a quiet win.
The value of "bulletin board" quotes is usually overstated by fans and the media alike. What is said before a contest normally ceases to matter once the ball is in play.
But Roberto Mancini could be forgiven for wanting this match a bit more than some others. And, as Mourinho himself acknowledges, given the absurd financial wherewithal of City's owners and the four slots guaranteed to Premier League sides every year, Mancini could be taking the Sky Blues into Champions League play for years to come (via the Telegraph).
It seems that this friction between Mourinho and Mancini is most likely just beginning.
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