Supporters inside Old Trafford on Wednesday night were treated to a surprise.
No, not Manchester United winning a game.
For the first time in a long time, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola actually seemed to enjoy each other’s company.
The pair’s rivalry stretches back to their time together in Spain. “We intended to play like men and not fall on the ground at the slightest touch,” Mourinho said about Barcelona’s style after the Spanish Super Cup final in 2011. “I have been taught to play like a man and not to fall first.”
And when Guardiola decided to take a one-year sabbatical after leaving Barcelona? “It's his life, but for me it's unthinkable to take a sabbatical. He is younger than me, but I'm not tired,” Mourinho quipped.
Mourinho and Guardiola were good friends - they were together under Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona - but the relationship has become frosty since both pursued managerial careers.
Yet before United’s 1-0 win over Manchester City in the EFL Cup, Guardiola and Mourinho looked genuinely delighted to see other. There wasn’t a hint of bitterness on either end - instead, both exited their embrace with a smile.
Are Mourinho and Guardiola friends? Well, maybe.
Process of reconciliation
Their reunion prompted an analysis by Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, who claimed that the technicians are attempting to re-build their relationship.
“The game started before kick-off,” Balague wrote for AS. “A smiling Mou exchanged pleasantries with Pep who responded with a playful slap on the neck.
“Both coaches met recently at a coaching forum and a process of reconciliation between both seems to be on track.”
Guardiola came to Mourinho's defence
Signs that the relationship is steadily improving were made clear when Guardiola came to Mourinho’s support following criticism he received after losing three straight games in September.
“I hear a lot of things that are not true about what is happening now,” he said, per AS. “For many colleagues (managers), at the moment they aren't winning, and it isn’t fair what happens with them.”
Mourinho and Guardiola are turning into BFFs. Deal with it.
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