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Pep Guardiola at 51: How Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho's careers compare at same age

On Pep Guardiola's 51st birthday, Sports Mole takes a look at the Spaniard's illustrious managerial career compared with Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho when they were the same age.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, arguably the greatest footballing coach in the modern era, celebrates his 51st birthday today.

There is no doubt that the Spaniard has had an enormous impact across his 14-and-a-half-year managerial career, stamping his authority at his beloved Barcelona, before reaching new heights at both Bayern Munich and Man City.

His unique philosophy is one that is not just easy on the eye, but has proven to be successful in breaking countless records and crucially winning silverware.

Such success at the highest level has unsurprisingly seen the Catalan-born boss mentioned in the debate for the greatest of all time, though he faces competition from other high-profile names to have graced the beautiful game.

Here, Sports Mole takes a look at the Spaniard's illustrious managerial career, compared with two other coaching legends in the form of Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho when they were aged 51.


Pep Guardiola: A Spanish success story

Barcelona's manager Pep Guardiola is thrown in the air by his players after their Champions League final win against Manchester United on May 28, 2011© Reuters

After a successful playing career, which included winning 15 major honours with Barcelona, Guardiola returned to Catalonia in 2007 to take charge of the B team, who had just been relegated from the Segunda Division B. Under his guidance, they won their Tercera Division group to achieve promotion back to the Segunda Division B at the first time of asking.

Following an impressive first season as a head coach, the Spaniard was surprisingly given the first-team reins in 2008. In his first season, Guardiola made an immediate impact by winning the treble (La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League), which to this day is regarded as one of the club's finest achievements. Two more league titles, another Champions League triumph and an additional eight pieces of silverware followed to take his tally to 14, before he decided that a change was needed.

After a year-long sabbatical, Bayern Munich would be the Spaniard's next destination, where he spent three years between 2013 and 2016. This was a different challenge in a new environment, though he had no trouble in adapting and putting his stamp on German football. While a European triumph eluded him at the Allianz Arena, Guardiola's time in Bavaria is still considered a success, as he won a total of seven trophies including three Bundesliga titles.

Then in the summer of 2016, Guardiola took on arguably his biggest challenge yet when he joined Manchester City, a club with the ambition, personnel, facilities and finances to reach the very top under his tutelage.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola lifts the Premier League trophy on May 12, 2019 © Reuters

In the strongest league, with the toughest of competitors, Guardiola realised the enormity of the task at hand in his first year at the Etihad Stadium, as his first season in charge was also his first ever without winning a single trophy. However, the Spaniard has never looked back since and securing silverware is now considered a welcome habit for the Citizens.

Guardiola's first success at City came in the 2018 EFL Cup final, and just three months later he guided the Sky Blues to a record-breaking Premier League title triumph, with his team becoming the first to record 100 points in a single English top-flight campaign.

Season after season, Guardiola's well-oiled machine continues to break records, with one of his most notable coming in the 2018-19 campaign, when they became the first team in English football to win the domestic quadruple.

After five-and-a-half years in the job, claiming 10 domestic pieces of silverware in the process, Guardiola now hopes to end City's painful wait for Champions League glory while continuing to dominate domestically.


At the age of 51: Guardiola compared to Ferguson and Mourinho

PEP vs. SAF vs. JM (1)
PEP vs. SAF vs. JM (2)

While it only took two years for Guardiola to transition from a player to coaching Barcelona's senior side, taking the top job at the age of 38, the Spaniard was actually older than both Ferguson and Mourinho in comparison to when they were appointed to their inaugural managerial roles.

At the comparatively young age of 32, Ferguson was appointed head coach at East Stirlingshire just a few months after hanging up his boots, while Mourinho spent eight years as a translator for the likes of Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal at Barcelona before taking his first senior managerial role with Benfica in 2000, aged 37.

Prior to joining Manchester United, Ferguson enjoyed his first 12 years as a manager in Scotland, which is almost the same length of time as Guardiola's entire managerial career to date. Fergie won a total of 11 trophies including four league titles; his first in the second division with St Mirren before ending the eight-year duopoly between Celtic and Rangers by guiding Aberdeen to three top-flight titles between 1979 and 1985. During this spell of domestic success, Aberdeen's European Cup Winners' Cup triumph over Real Madrid in 1982-83 – Ferguson's first European title – was arguably the greatest achievement he had with the Dons.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates with the Premier League trophy on May 12, 2013© Reuters

Unlike Guardiola, who was pushed into the limelight at the top straight away, Ferguson had to work his way up from the bottom, and initially he was relatively unknown to the footballing world outside of Scotland. His recognition grew thanks to his success at Aberdeen and as a result, United decided to recruit him in 1986, following a brief stint as Scotland's national team manager.

In his first four years at Old Trafford, before his 51st birthday, Ferguson failed to mount a title challenge with the Red Devils, who endured several poor runs of form. Such struggles nearly got Ferguson sacked, however, he hung in there and managed to turn the club's fortunes around. The 1990 FA Cup win for United would be the first of many titles that followed for Fergie, and supporters are sure to be thankful that the Scotsman kept his job.

As for Mourinho, brief spells with Benfica and Uniao de Leiria caught the eye of Porto, where the Portuguese made his name on the managerial circuit, winning six trophies including two league titles and the famous 2003-04 Champions League triumph.

A switch to Chelsea then followed for "The Special One", who made an immediate impact at Stamford Bridge, helping the Blues become the fourth team after Man United, Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers to win the Premier League, with a then-record of 95 points – one that has since been beaten twice by Guardiola, who notched up 100 and then 98 points in back-to-back seasons with Man City.

Inter Milan's manager Jose Mourinho celebrates with the Champions League trophy on May 22, 2010© Reuters

In 2008, the same year Guardiola started at Barcelona, Mourinho moved to Italy and joined Inter Milan. Clinching his first Serie A title in his first season was followed by perhaps one of the greatest achievements of his career, as he helped the Nerazzurri become the first Italian club to win the treble (Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League) in 2009-10.

The following summer saw Mourinho joined Spanish giants Real Madrid and he won the Copa del Rey in his first season, before finishing nine points ahead of Guardiola's Barca side to win the La Liga title in 2011-12.

Mourinho managed to win the league title in each of his first full seasons at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid before the age of 51, an impressive feat that cannot be matched by Guardiola or Ferguson.

When comparing Guardiola with both Ferguson and Mourinho, it is clear that all three coaches have had a significant influence on the teams they have managed and were hugely successful as a result. While both Ferguson and Mourinho did not begin at the very top like Guardiola, the latter has still managed to claim 15 and 11 more trophies than the Scotsman and the Portuguese respectively before the age of 51. In addition, Guardiola's outstanding win percentage of 74% is far superior to Ferguson's 51.6% and Mourinho's 67.5%.


Overall career record: Guardiola compared to Ferguson and Mourinho

PEP vs. SAF vs. JM (3)
PEP vs. SAF vs. JM (4)

When it comes down to silverware, Ferguson stands head and shoulders above every other manager in the history of world football. To claim a staggering 49 trophies during his 39-year managerial career – with 38 won at United alone – is quite remarkable, especially considering his start to life at Old Trafford.

Mourinho was one of the first managers to achieve success with several European clubs from different countries and the Portuguese can take pride in his achievements, considering he has no playing career to look back on for experience.

As for Guardiola, he is now building his own era of dominance with the blue side of Manchester and he is on course to claim more silverware at the Etihad Stadium this season. It remains to be seen how long the Spaniard will go on for; the Man City boss may not match Fergie's longevity, or manage as many teams as Mourinho, but he has certainly done enough already at the age of 51 to be considered as one of the greatest footballing masterminds the game has ever seen.


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