But going into tonight’s highly anticipated Manchester derby, both managers are desperate to secure a Champions League spot that would ensure their first season at their respective clubs does not end in failure.
The Guardiola and Mourinho rivalry has come a long way since their days in Spain. Whereas both tussled for the title with Barcelona and Real Madrid, the unforgiving nature of the Premier League has brought them crashing back down to earth.
The common consensus seems to be that Guardiola was top dog in La Liga. He built the most formidable Barcelona team of all time, won the Champions League twice and claimed three league titles from his four years at the helm.
But Mourinho had his moments too. It was he who won Madrid their last title, back in 2012. He also won the Copa del Rey. And, had it not been for a Robert Lewandowski-inspired Borussia Dortmund display, could have added another Champions League to his collection too.
Seriously, Guardiola – no doubt one of the best-ever managers – is in trouble. City spent three years trying to lure him to the Etihad and to do worse than Manuel Pellegrini, coupled with a trophyless season, would represent a major blow.
Mourinho has already endured rough seas when at Chelsea last year but so far his Manchester mission has just about worked. Finishing fourth, with the EFL Cup and Europa League to boot, would ensure Ed Woodward made the right choice to axe Louis van Gaal after winning the FA Cup in May.
But even if he manages to secure Champions League football via the Europa league, those who wanted Van Gaal to stay another year will feel vindicated. Fifth last season, fifth and two relatively unglamorous trophies this season, some will not care. It will feel like a failure.
Both battling to outdo the other at the Etihad will be fascinating. Neither will be going into the game…