With Man City and Man United distant form the Premier League title race, the fervour around the Mourinho-Guardiola rivalry has diminished.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes a reduced focus on the rivalry between himself and Pep Guardiola is the “correct” approach ahead of Thursday’s derby at Manchester City.
Guardiola and Mourinho famously locked horns while in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid on either side of El Clasico’s bitter divide between 2010 and 2012.
The stage was set for a similarly memorable battle in Manchester this season, as each team won their opening three Premier League matches before first-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho helped City to a 2-1 win over their rivals at Old Trafford.
Both teams have since fallen off the pace in a title race that is now the preserve of London, as Chelsea aim to hold off Tottenham’s impressive charge, and a spot in the Champions League qualification places is the main concern this week in the north west, alongside matters of local pride.
As such, the notion of a grudge between the two men in the dugout has taken a back seat and Mourinho feels this is for the best.
“I see that now is the correct approach and the previous one wasn’t,” he told Sky Sports, reflecting upon early season hype.
“This is about the clubs, this is about the teams, this is about the positions at the end of the season.
“This is not about myself and Guardiola, so I think now is the correct approach.”
United already have the EFL Cup for safekeeping and are into the semi-finals of the Europa League – the latter competition representing a navigable route into the Champions League should they miss out on the top four domestically.
By contrast, City were beaten by Arsenal in extra time during Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final and will finish the season without a major honour as their rivals sit a point and a place behind them in fifth.
Mourinho’s men are unbeaten in 23 Premier League matches – a tally that combines 13 wins and 10 draws – and the former Chelsea boss does not feel under pressure as he reflects with assurance upon the foundations he has laid for the coming seasons.
“It doesn’t matter what happens in terms of titles we win or don’t win,” he said. “I always feel that this season is very important for me, the players and the club.
“I would say this can be the first season of the next five or six or seven. It can be the first season of better years.
“And the reality is even in the first season of better years we won already and we have already the chance to do good things until the end of the season.
“If we manage to win the Europa League and in August to play the European Super Cup against the Champions League winner, it will be magnificent.”