Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, apart from being in a constant spar of words, are also the managers of long-time rivals Manchester United and Chelsea. On Sunday, these two English giants clash yet again, and Old Trafford will be the spectator to an undoubtedly entertaining contest.
While the strength of the respective sides is a matter of great debate, when it comes to the abilities of their managers, United’s Portuguese tactician certainly takes the edge, and here are 5 reasons why:
1. Experience and Silverware
The two may be at the helm of historic clubs, but their own histories have a starkly different twist to them. Mourinho’s managerial stints at European giants Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and even Chelsea before United, have led him to boast of 25 titles, including the domestic league and cup titles in Italy, Spain, Portugal and England, as well as two UEFA Champions League honors, amidst several others.
In contrast, the only remarkable stints of Conte’s comparatively shorter managerial career were at Juventus and as the head coach of the Italian national side, after which he was handed the Chelsea portfolio, which has led his total tally of silverware to go up to 7.
2. Better In Europe
If his collection of two UEFA Champions League titles and a recent UEFA Europa League victory wasn’t convincing enough of his superiority, then the manner in which he goes about winning two-legged ties certainly do. This, in contrast to Conte’s few trysts in the European games, tells a greater tale.
Simply put, when compared to Conte, Mourinho’s experience and long run with wins and losses alike in Europe with clubs of different styles and caliber is a big advantage. Jose has been able to take ties across the two legs, while Conte prefers to see the games as individual fixtures, which could very well prove to be his downside when they meet Barcelona yet again in the second leg.
While the tactical prowess of both men is up for show week in and week out, it’s their general mindset of play that is stark when observed carefully.
Mourinho prefers to build his sides in a manner that best develops their style and leaves minimum, if any, room for opponents to pry at, with Manchester United’s Europa League run of last season being the best example.
Conte, however, prefers to build his team in manner that primarily aims at adapting to their opponent’s style of play, which more often than not hinders his own side’s ability to make an impact and is very damaging to their formation, which, at Chelsea, despite two seasons of experimenting and rotation, is yet to stabilize.
4. Ability To Play Mind Games
This is an area where Mourinho has an undisputed edge over his Chelsea counterpart. The Portuguese gaffer has a proven knack for witty replies and crafty words that are known to send opponents into a frenzy. This is taken to the next level when employed in transfer sagas with big matches in close proximity, like in the UEFA Super Cup tie against Real Madrid from earlier this season.
Far from playing mind games, Conte is infamous for being easy bait to journalists, and has more often than not been the source of strong responses over comparatively trivial issues. His inability to handle this and crack under pressure, while not necessarily a tactical talent, is a skill that any major manager of the modern era has to make forays into.
5. Ruthless in Approach
Mourinho is a repeated risk taker, Conte isn’t, as simple as that. Be it in benching star-players who have been underperforming or even selling them off despite their fan-favorite stature, the Portuguese has shown that he can make huge decisions with a cool mind.
What is more vital is his tendency to experiment with unconventional tactics and stick to them as long as the results are positive and can be replicated. In this regard, he is also very unapologetic about his means, and this is what sets him a class apart when compared to Conte, who seems to find an earnest need to explain and justify his each and every move.
This ruthlessness, coupled with creative ploys, has led to measures such as parking the bus, and its eventual success as well as his overall style of playing defensively and perfecting counterattacks lead to immense acclaim.
All in all, Conte is still at the beginning of his career when compared to Mourinho, and will certainly develop into a great manager in the years to come, but for the time being, it is the Manchester United gaffer that reigns supreme.