Pre-season news last summer got tongues wagging when talismanic ex-Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was appointed as Manchester United boss. Pep Guordiola’s unveiling at the Etihad happened shortly after and Antonio Conte, formerly of Juventus, took the reins at Chelsea. The stage was set for fireworks as an ageing Arsene Wenger and a motivated yet toothless Jurgen Klopp failed to match pre-season media hype standards as set by the big boys of Premier League football.
The battle proved to be quite obsolute and lop-sided in the League as Conte ran away with the honours even before Jose and Pep got their teeth in. The second place deservingly went to Mauricio Pottechino of Spurs, who after yet another great showing in the League, failed to bring any silverware to the Club. Klopp was good, Pep just pipped him to finish third while Wenger came fifth. Manchester United and Jose Mourinho settled with a paltry sixth but United’s season can barely be described with their performance in the League.
So, while Conte dominated the League, albeit with no European football at his disposal this season, Jose Mourinho led his boys to Cup successes – three to be precise. Here’s a showdown of two of the most impactful managers this season.
When your name is attached to teams around which football in Britain and the World revolves, heavyweights like Chelsea and Manchester United demand intense commitment from their managers. Fans of these clubs back a manager to infinity if they somehow prove that they relate with their present club and will give all it takes. Jose Mourinho is no new to the Premier League scene, his calm sadistic approach, kicking of water of bottles on the sidelines and mad shouting at his players at times left no dearth of commiment questionable. His celebration after defeating Chelsea at Manchester summed up his story, reactions after winning the Europa League were priceless too. Conte, on the other hand, ran the stretch of the sidelines with every Chelsea goal, punched nails every time Chelsea lost the ball and appreciated every Chelsea player coming off animatedly. The media covered Conte well, and now he is one of the Blues’ own. Antonio Conte edges out Jose Mourinho by a fair distance in this regard. His expresssions all through have been priceless. 1-0 Conte.
Good managers have great philosophy. But, can they always implement it? From Louis Van Gaal’s trailback football to Wenger’s switch to a back three, we’ve seen it all fall apart in the last few seasons. Antonio Conte came in with a mission, a philosophy and laid his hands on one of the best teams in business right now. He switched to a back three, played out from the back, went with lone strikers up front and demanded the most out of his wingers. All fell in place for the Italian like a jigsaw puzzle. Marcos Alonso, Davis Luiz, Kante, Eden Hazard, Pedro and Victor Moses took to their positions like a fish takes to water. Super stuff. Mourinho, on the other hand, has had to crop and trim now and then, bring makeshift players in and eventually play a Reserve team against Swansea. The typical Mourinho football has barely been noticed this season, players like Mata and Pogba have failed to have the maximum effect and many believe that Luke Shaw has been wasted immensely. United are still in a transition and it is up to Mourinho now to fix a starting line-up with the players he gets in the transfer window. Conte wins this one, yet again. 2-0 Conte.
Both Conte and Jose tend to keep the core of their teams same with every passing season. However , with their stints at Chelsea and Manchester United, we may beg to differ. While multiple members of Chelsea are inclined on leaving Stamford Bridge, which include the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Michy Batshuyi and Willian, the only rumoured away transfer from United is that of Wayne Rooney to Everton and David De Gea to Real Madrid. With fresh players coming into Chelsea in the coming season, it remains to be seen if the Italian can keep the core of the team intact. United, however, are halfway into developing a Champions League team and transfers are definitely welcome. Also, one must note that both managers lost key experienced players through retirement, namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic for United and John Terry for Chelsea. Jose pulls one back in this segment. 2-1 Conte.
Success, Trophies and Titles
Finally the one that matters most. United have ended the season with three trophies – the Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the Europa League while Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have been the undisputed Champions of the Premier League. 3:1 there. But, where does a Community Shield or a EFL Cup stand in respect to a Premier League title in a first season as manager? Arguably, Chelsea would have had the edge in this segment if they could have completed their double swoop, the FA Cup and the Premier League. While the Premier League is a wonderful platform to build on, Chelsea have not had the taste of European football under Antonio Conte. And like Mourinho always says, he wants trophies wherever he goes. He did just that in his first season at Manchester, eventually putting United back into the Champions League. So, in context of the gains and losses of the season gone by, Mourinho deserves to take this one with a domestic Cup, a European Cup and a Charity Shield compared to a solitary title at Stamford Bridge. Tied 2-2.
The Conte-Mourinho-Pep-Klopp rivalry is here to stay for another two seasons at least and Pottechino might just end up being the winner in at least one of these occassions. The water is just heated up and swords are being drawn. The transfer window is crucial as to who gets whom and who proves to be the ultimate tactical masterclass. With all of Premier League, UEFA Champions League and domestic cups involved, next season, hence, promises to be one heck of an adventure if this season is something to go by. May the Best Manager Win.