Tuesday 26 March 2019

How Man City's 'All Or Nothing' documentary gave Jose Mourinho rare chance to land blow on Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola (left) and Jose Mourinho (right).
Pep Guardiola (left) and Jose Mourinho (right).

Sam Wallace

On Friday afternoon at his giant press conference desk in the City Football Academy, Pep Guardiola was keen to get something off his chest about Manchester City's Amazon Prime documentary series launched to some fanfare two days previously.

The Manchester City manager was eager to make a point about who controlled the final cut of the documentary and the portrayal of certain individuals, although he did not mention by name Jose Mourinho, his long-time rival across town at Manchester United.

For the purposes of the television drama in question, and certainly in the first two episodes, Mourinho is cast as the Darth Vader of the piece, a looming rival whose negative style is the antithesis to the light and ambition of the other team in Manchester.

Asked a general question about what he wanted fans to take away from the Amazon Prime series "All Or Nothing", which chronicles City's record-breaking 2017-2018 Premier League title winning season, Guardiola answered another. "What happened in the documentary is not in our responsibility," he said. "Not even one. The people from Amazon decided what they wanted to show to the rest of the world, to the Manchester City fans in 200 countries. In the end we are not involved in that."

He went on to say that there was the good and the bad over the course of a season and that while the documentary will one day serve as a "good memory" for those involved he was keen to stress that it was independent, "an honest production".

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City were paid £10 million by the subscription streaming service - much to the chagrin of domestic rights-holders Sky Sports and BT Sport who want the same access. The club say they had veto over footage that might have legal implications or break privacy undertakings but have otherwise been at pains to say it was independent.

It is hard to believe City would have permitted such sensitive access if they were not sure of the likely results. Previous collaborations with famous sports team featured in the "All Or Nothing" series have produced largely uncritical, non-controversial portraits. Certainly a few miles across town one individual was clear who he saw as responsible. At the end of his press conference for the Sunday newspapers, following a discussion of the effects of the injury to Kevin De Bruyne, Mourinho was asked about what he calls "the movie".

Kevin De Bruyne. Photo: PA

What followed was the classic Mourinho counter-attack. He may have sensed that Guardiola would be embarrassed by some of the documentary's presentation. Perhaps he had endured too many months of backslapping at City. But either way he was not about to let the opportunity pass without trying to turn the tables on City and Guardiola and issue a rallying cry to United fans. If there is one lesson to take from Mourinho's past, it is that he is not one to let a slight go.

"I haven't seen it ["All Or Nothing" series] but I know a few things about the movie," Mourinho said. "My reaction is if you are a rich club you can buy top players, you cannot buy class. That is my first reaction. The second reaction is because I am in the movie I could ask for some royalties. But if they send me one of the t-shirts they had in the tunnel [for the derby game in April when City could have clinched the title but lost 3-2] when we played there, the shirts that were saying ‘We did it on derby day'. If they send me one of these shirts, I give up about the royalties."

Mourinho was enjoying himself. "You know," he added with a laugh, "a movie without me doesn't sell much. Come on! It [the City documentary] needed me [in] there."

For United fans, all this will be a delight. Not least the reference to the t-shirts that never saw the light of day, rather like those oft-mentioned - but never seen - Arsenal t-shirts said to proclaim "50 not out" before United ended their 49-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford in October 2004. The notion that City are not interesting enough for the documentary makers without the spice of their famous rivals, and their manager, is exactly what the Old Trafford faithful want to hear. After a summer in which Mourinho's sullenness has dismayed many fans, this was the kind of mischief they approve of.

The documentary is heavy-handed in its treatment of Mourinho in the first two episodes in a manner that would make many of City's executives, well-schooled in the nuances of the rivalry, wince. The Amazon team takes little prior knowledge for granted and their explanation of De Bruyne's story - including Mourinho's treatment of him at Chelsea, with historic footage of the Portuguese from that time criticising the Belgian - would naturally be interpreted as provocative.

The triumphalism of City's derby victory in December pulls no punches either. Narrated by Ben Kingsley, the game is set up thus: "It is Guardiola versus Mourinho once more; possession versus defence; attacking football versus ‘park-the-bus'". Later there is a clip from Mourinho's post-match press conference and the message is clear: this is a coach trying to make excuses.

Thus far, it has been hard for Mourinho to land a blow on Guardiola. The serenity of the City manager as his team took flight last season answered all questions, and even United's 3-2 win over them in April just delayed the inevitable Premier League title party. But there was never any question that the United manager would seize on anything he could and the Amazon Prime documentary series was the open-goal.

In "All Or Nothing" episode seven that features City's defeat to United in April on what they hoped would be their derby day title party, there is much less of Mourinho. At the break, Guardiola warns his side of the dangers of what he describes as "40 f------ five minutes" to win the title. There is a half-time interview with a City fan in tears of joy at what he believes is the inevitable victory, and then, for him, the day falls apart. Two goals behind at half-time, United come back to win.

One assumes Mourinho would be very interested in it – including the shot of the City fan holding up a pre-match homemade placade featuring his face and the slogan "The Finished One". After a summer of internal unrest at Old Trafford, "All Or Nothing" seems to have focussed minds.


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