Pep Guardiola insisted his relationship with Jose Mourinho has mellowed enough for them to share a glass of wine after their first Manchester derby.
The personal animosity between the two men bubbled over on a number of occasions during a stormy three-year period when they were on opposing sides of the Barcelona-Real Madrid divide.
Now, three years later, they find themselves about to pit their wits against each other in another of world football’s more high-profile derbies.
Asked if he would join Mourinho for a drink after today’s lunchtime’s match at Old Trafford, Guardiola said: “I’ll accept if he invites me.”
The pair first met 20 years ago when Mourinho joined Bobby Robson’s backroom team at Barcelona, where Guardiola was a senior player for his home club.
The Catalan said: “The last period in Madrid, Barcelona was not easy for both of us but we met each other two or three weeks ago at the Premier League managers’ (meeting) and we spoke fluently with Ronald Koeman, with Tony Pulis, and so on, and it was correct. That’s all.”
The City boss shot down suggestions their rivalry was one of sport’s greatest, saying: “Jose and I don’t play so I am sorry, when Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe played, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, or Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic, that is the point.
“This game belongs to the players, it doesn’t belong to me and Jose. I think you give too much importance to what we say. We speak through our players, through our games, not what we’re talking about here. The people who go to Old Trafford [today], they go there not to see me and Jose on the side, they’re going to see all the big fantastic players out on the field.”
Guardiola finds himself up against not just one ghost of his past in Mourinho, but also United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede was signed by Guardiola for Barcelona in 2010 but their relationship deteriorated and he was loaned to AC Milan after one season.
Ibrahimovic, who has already scored four goals for United, has previously described Guardiola as a coward and said in his autobiography: “If Mourinho brightens up the room, Guardiola pulls down the curtains.”
“I have a lot of respect for Zlatan and what he has done in the football world in his career,” said Guardiola.
“He has had a big impact in what he did everywhere and he is an amazing talent, especially on the pitch. He is one of the best players and the best players have an impact.”
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