When Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were installed as Manchester United and Manchester City's respective managers, you knew it was going to make fascinating viewing. Although they haven't been in their posts very long, they have already had a massive impact. It is almost a given that they must try and outdo each other to be successful, yet both have shown then when it comes to being ruthless they are even vying for top spot in those stakes.
It is difficult to choose who has been more harshly treated. Bastian Schweinsteiger, multiple title and World Cup winner who has been banished to the reserves. Or Joe Hart, England's number one, banished to another country. It's probably a toss-up, but when all said and done, so what? Both managers made their position clear to the players and, in reality, have done nothing wrong. It's their choice and they will have to live with the consequences.
Managers are more at risk
When new owners take over a football club, who is the first person to feel hot under the collar? Is it the star striker? The expensive midfielder? No, the players are not looking over their shoulders. Depending on the stature of the club and the level of new investment, the players may be replaced at some point but not immediately. It's the manager who finds himself out of work, and normally the process is done rather swiftly.
So why should players be exempt when a manager comes in and doesn't fancy them for whatever reason? They shouldn't and they aren't but because Schweinsteiger and Hart are so high profile and at high profile clubs, it seems to have generated more of a fuss than usual. Yet have Mourinho and Guardiola stepped over the mark? Mourinho has been following a well-trodden path when it comes to ruthlessness at United.
United have 'previous'
Sir Alex Ferguson was no shrinking violet. He showed that he held power and was not shy when it came to dealing with players no matter how harsh it may have seemed from the outside. Jaap Stam wrote a book. He was out of the Old Trafford door before the ink was dry. David Beckham married a 'pop star'. Whilst he did receive a stay of execution, as the media circus surrounding the Beckham's increased, Ferguson's patience didn't. Bags packed for Madrid.
Roy Keane criticised his teammates, justifiably. That was more than Ferguson was prepared to allow. Thanks for your 13 years service and countless trophies Roy. Ruud van Nistelrooy only criticised one player, but that was Cristiano Ronaldo, the 'Golden Child'. Ferguson didn't make van Nistelrooy's last days at Old Trafford happy ones, dropping him for a League Cup final and putting new boys Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra on instead of the Dutchman.
Louis van Gaal also showed no mercy to one of his best ever goalkeepers. Victor Valdes had to train not with the under-23's but alone. His crime was refusing to play for the under-23 team and he was severely punished. It doesn't get any harsher or lonelier than training by yourself and Valdes was also highly decorated. Sir Alex was able to make big calls in discarding players due to the power he held, and based on the success he enjoyed. Van Gaal couldn't say the same, and the irony is all those players were discarded by the manager that signed them.
Mourinho decision made sense
Mourinho and Guardiola didn't sign their outcasts and it is almost certain that their actions are as much putting down a marker as to the ability of the players. When Michael Carrick signed a new contract, it had to put a question mark over Schweinsteiger. He would have had an idea that Paul Pogba was a possibility and freeing up ageing legs and high wages seemed a sensible approach. When you consider Schweinsteiger played just 13 league games, of which 8 were starts, keeping Carrick even three years his senior was not the wrong option.
Yet Schweinsteiger has thrown a spanner in the works by refusing to budge. He is not prepared to leave and will sit things out insisting he still wants to help United. He is entitled to do so. Yet Mourinho will not back down and if injuries and suspensions hit in one go, then no United fan would grumble at Mourinho throwing Timothy Fosu-Mensah into the fray, or even giving someone like Josh Harrop a debut. After all, it's in United's DNA. Schweinsteiger has played his last game for United.
For Guardiola, it's all ego. His superiority complex and insistence on playing a 'rush goalie' means that he chose to make Hart a scapegoat and blame his footballing ability or lack of it. The mark of a great goalkeeper is the ability to win teams points throughout a season. Peter Schmeichel, Edwin van Der Saar and now David De Gea didn't do that at United by chipping 30 yard balls at an angle to a full back. They have won United points by keeping the ball out of their goal.
Willy Caballero is not a better goalkeeper than Joe Hart. Maybe shampoo ads had something to do with things, or maybe Hart has just been resting on his laurels for some time now and hasn't lived up to the standards he set some time ago. Guardiola now has a better keeper on the deck and in goal in Carlos Bravo, so ultimately Hart will not be missed and there will be no clamouring for his reinstatement from City fans.
When all said and done it is the manager's choices. And although some of the decisions they make may seem unreasonably hard, let's not shed too many tears. Schweinsteiger will continue to pick up a sizeable wage packet and continue to do very little. He will get a move to the US where he can become anonymous and still pick up a nice little earner. Hart will have to make do with Turin and whilst he may have his work cut out learning a new language, there are tougher ways to earn a living. It's a hard life.