Guardiola under scrutiny as Mata and Mourinho sink City
EFL Cup victory lifts the gloom around Old Trafford and condemns City to a sixth game without a win
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Mourinho vs Guardiola: Managers in crisis collide at Old Trafford
It may "only" be the EFL Cup but for Manchester United and Manchester City tonight's derby is a crucial match that could have ramifications for the rest of the season.
While Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is feeling the heat after defeat to Chelsea, so too is Pep Guardiola after five games without a win for his Manchester City side.
And the local derby could not have come at a worse time for either side says Jack Gaughan of Mail Online.
"It is the Manchester derby both sides of this city could really do without. In the midst of tricky spells and heightening pressure, defeat by a rival stationed four miles up the road does not look too appealing.
"Wednesday night represents an almost no-win situation for both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola - and they know it."
It could also impact on their team selection. "Playing a second string XI is now a far harder decision than it ordinarily would be," says Gaughan. "Mourinho, for example, would despise losing against Guardiola again so soon. And at home. Guardiola, meanwhile, would rather not record the worst run of his managerial career."
Remarkably, United may be under less pressure than the visitors because victory, even on penalties, for the home side would switch the heat onto City and Guardiola in a big way.
"If City fail to win at Old Trafford in the EFL Cup Fourth Round, Guardiola the manager will have gone six games without victory for the first time ever," explains the Daily Telegraph.
Indeed, Guardiola "now faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career, with opposing managers growing wise to the fact that City's defenders have not yet mastered the art of playing out from the back, having conceded a few avoidable goals when put under pressure in defensive areas".
On the other hand, Guardiola is in charge of a long term project so early problems can be overlooked. A similar run for Mourinho is worse, says Oliver Kay of The Times because "Mourinho's methods - more short-termist, very much more results-orientated than philosophy-orientated - demand results".
To make matters worse for the two beleagured managers the chance of the game proving inconsequential are slim. Not only is it a knock-out clash, but the two sides have a "thunderous" history in what is now the EFL Cup, says The Guardian. They have been paired in the competition four times and "all four, from 1969 to 2010, have gone into Manchester derby folklore".
The most recent, in 2010, ended with Carlos Tevez and Gary Neville going to war and a similar intensity could be on the cards for Mourinho and Guardiola.
Man Utd vs Man City: Will the real Jose Mourinho stand up?
Differing accounts of Mourinho's methods at United emerge, but after Chelsea the beast could be stirring
Varied reports of life under Jose Mourinho have emerged from Old Trafford ahead of Manchester United's second showdown of the season against its local rivals Man City.
The two sides meet in the EFL Cup on Wednesday in a game that has become bigger than either club would have liked, thanks to their poor form.
City have not won for five matches, but they remain top of the Premier League and their travails have been overshadowed by those of United, who are under intense scrutiny following the 4-0 defeat to Chelseaon Sunday which left Mourinho with an identical record to David Moyes after nine games of the season.
Now it has been claimed that the United boss's aloof approach has left his players "stunned".
"Mourinho cuts a distant figure, sometimes leaving his assistant, Rui Faria, to conduct training sessions while he watches from a distance or works in his office," reports Paul Hirst of The Times. "Mourinho's cold approach to his players in one-to-one situations has also disappointed some United players... [who] were expecting Mourinho to take a keen personal interest in them."
But Jack Gaughan of Mail Online paints a different picture and says that ahead of the must-win game against City, Mourinho "has kept up a charm offensive with his players" despite their run of bad form.
"He has retained a positive attitude around his players at training and sends tailored messages of support in a bid to galvanise the squad ahead of big games... [and] is also believed to be jovial on the team bus ahead of matches to cajole additional team spirit.
He has even been sending "rousing text messages" to his players to gee them up for big games.
But so far his reign has been a curious one says Rob Smyth in The Guardian. "Since taking over at United, his dream job, he has looked subdued, weary and almost bored.
"It is possible, after all the talk of his unsuitability for the job, Mourinho is too conscious of how a United manager should be seen to behave, as if Sir Bobby Charlton is on his shoulder at all times," he says. "The cliche about what happens to a player if you take the fire out of their game also applies to Mourinho."
However, his "petulant" reaction to the Chelsea result may show that he is stirring out of his lethargy. He has demanded a reaction for the City game, calling on his players to "be men" against City and asserting that he was "100 per cent Manchester United".