Ex Manchester United and England defender Paul Parker believes there is not only a significant chasm in class between Manchester City and his former club on the pitch this season but in the technical area too.
“When you look at Pep and Jose you have to say there is a massive gap. Pep is evolving and he realises that the game offers him more scope now with what he wants to do because of how the game is going. Whereas Mourinho as a coach he’s not really evolved and he’s still doing what he did at Porto and Inter Milan.
“You have to move on. Sir Alex moved on and got different coaches who had different coaches and because of that United still won titles and still dominated. You want players to move on and to improve but really it comes down to getting the right teacher, a person who doesn’t only believe in himself but in the abilities of the player and what they can do”.
The respected right-back, who won every domestic honour going during his five years at Old Trafford, does not solely attribute the gulf to the two coach’s very different methods and philosophies however. Football too plays a part.
“Without a doubt the modern game suits Pep Guardiola more than Jose Mourinho. The style of it. The lack of physicality. Mind games no longer seem to work and trying to stop the play with niggly fouls, well, the referees can see through all of that now and will penalise.
"The Premier League gives teams who want to play football every opportunity to do so and that’s because it’s a business now and customers want value for money. If people don’t get entertained they will go elsewhere.”
The E word has blighted Mourinho’s two year stint with the Red Devils with many critical of the stolid fare he favours at a club known for getting fans off their seats. Parker goes further and insists that his cautious approach renders the signing of even the world’s most exciting talents pointless.
“Manchester United could go and sign the best player in the world but is that player going to be allowed to play and show why he’s the best player in the world? No matter how much is spent will those players be allowed to show what their best strengths are?
"That’s the big problem. We see this all the time and these players come and it doesn’t work out because they’re no longer the players they were at their former clubs. That comes down to Mourinho’s style of football.”
Such thinking places serious doubt on a strongly rumoured summer move materialising.
“You have to wonder whether Gareth Bale would fit in. Where would he play? He’s not a wide player anymore and likes to do his work through the middle. There are a lot of players who are already placed in the middle and the problem is a need for someone who is happy to provide width and stay out wide. Martial wants to come in.
"Rashford wants to come in and is very good at it. Bale would just be another player who wants to be a centre-forward.
“From a marketing side it makes sense but you have to ask if Gareth Bale would be comfortable there and given freedom. He’s not a player to track back and his first thought is always offensive and to run at people with pace and will he be given a chance to do that?”
Parker was speaking ahead of a momentous Manchester derby this weekend that will see the blue half of the city crowned champions should they win. It’s a fixture that pits each side’s most instrumental figures together in a fascinating midfield battle yet according to the 53 year old pundit it’s a match-up that’s woefully one-sided to United’s great cost.
“The gap between Pogba and De Bruyne could end up a nineteen-point gap. We’re talking about potential up against class. There are good players but to become a great player you have to do it consistently week in and week out and that’s what De Bruyne does.”
On the Frenchman’s struggles this term absolutely no punches are pulled for a player yet to justify his enormous fee.
“Can Pogba become the player he wants to be? He can but his priority has got to be his football – that should stick out more than his hair. It’s fine to have all the haircuts and emojis and whatever but to earn all that go and do your talking on the pitch. Everybody knows he can do it because everybody saw him at Juventus. He was fantastic in that style of play and the players around him helped him.
"So he needs help and his first priority when he’s asked what he wants to be and replies that he wants to be the best player in this team is to say, ‘well forget your hairdresser for a while’. Just go out there and become a player first then you can do what you want with your hair because people won’t notice anyway because they’ll only see the player.”
“De Bruyne won’t do anything with his hair and he doesn’t have an emoji: he’s playing football and when you talk about the best five players in the world you’ll mention Messi, Ronaldo, Salah and De Bruyne will be in there. When you mention Pogba people will have a little bit of a laugh then talk about his hair and the problems he has with Mourinho. That’s not really what you should be known for when you cost £89m.”
It can be assumed then that Pogba would be missing from the engine room in a combined City and United XI if selected by Parker. In the event only one man in Red makes the grade.
“I would go with just the goalkeeper. Under pressure you can always hang your hat on David De Gea making the save. That’s why he’s going to win the Manchester United Player of the Year award again for the fourth time.”
Paul Parker’s Quick-Fire Questions
Score predictions for the Manchester derby?
"3-1 to City." (Currently priced at 23/2 with 888sport)
"Raheem Sterling." (Currently priced at 5/1 with 888sport)
Who will win the FA Cup this season?
"I’ve got a funny feeling for Spurs." (Currently priced at 2/1 with 888sport)
Who will win the Champions League?
"Real Madrid." (Currently priced at 11/4 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*