Jose Mourinho is reeling from his heaviest loss in English soccer while Pep Guardiola has matched the longest winless run of his coaching career.
Things are about to get worse for one of the managers when Manchester United and Manchester City meet today in the fourth round of the English League Cup. It’s the second head-to-head already this season between two coaches who had an often-tempestuous rivalry in Spain.
Of the four competitions United and City are involved in this season, the League Cup is the lowest priority for both managers, but the importance of a victory at Old Trafford has intensified because of their teams’ current form.
United has won just one of its last six Premier League games and lost 4-0 at Chelsea on Sunday, a personal embarrassment for Mourinho at his former club. City is winless in its last five matches in all competitions, matching Guardiola’s career low at Barcelona in 2009.
For that reason, Mourinho and Guardiola may choose not to rotate their lineups as much as they might have wanted to.
“Young players have to be involved in the team’s good moment, and you cannot forget now the last five games we didn’t win,” Guardiola said yesterday. “To help the young players, you have to be involved in a good environment, with people with experience.
“To put three, four, five young players in at the same time is not a good idea because we have to protect them.”
The blue half of Manchester has had local bragging rights since Sept. 10, when City beat United 2-1 at Old Trafford in a performance that earned widespread praise for a side in the middle of a club-record winning run of 10 games. That game also underlined that United was still a work in progress under Mourinho, as subsequent results have proved.
“We are really, really sad,” Mourinho said. “But this (current period) is not for kids, this is for men.”
There is possibly more pressure on Mourinho on Wednesday. While City’s displays haven’t been that bad during its winless streak, Mourinho will want a signature victory to disprove growing concerns that he may not be able to stop the slide at United since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
If Mourinho plays a strong team and loses a derby for the second time in under two months, he will face even more criticism.