Pep Guardiola should target League Cup as first trophy of many at City
"It's difficult for me to live without titles. I need to feed myself with titles. This is important for me and the boys. For the club it's one more, but it's the first one of a new team" -- so said Jose Mourinho after clinching the 2015 League Cup with Chelsea, his first after returning to Stamford Bridge for a second spell in charge.
The Portuguese coach is a serial winner and throughout his time in England has always taken the "second" cup competition seriously -- it was his first trophy during both spells at Chelsea, as well as last year at Manchester United.
Across the other side of town at City, Pep Guardiola had little other than success during his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich -- winning 21 trophies in seven years -- but that came to an abrupt halt in his first year at the Etihad Stadium where he finished the season without a winners' medal for the first time in his coaching career.
The City boss may now want to consider his old adversary's words and make the League Cup a priority this season.
City failed to mount a significant challenge in the Premier League or Champions League last season -- Guardiola's top two targets -- and the club has invested over £200 million this summer to change that. They have brought in players that enjoyed success at their previous clubs -- Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy won the French title with Monaco last season; goalkeeper Ederson Moraes won the Portuguese title with Benfica -- but Mourinho's assertion is that a team's first success is a way to unite them and start off a winning mentality. He also saw the League Cup as the easiest trophy to win.
As evidenced by City's first outing in the competition, Guardiola wants to win it too. Despite leaving out Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and David Silva, he fielded an extremely strong team in Wednesday night's 2-1 win away to West Brom.
In last season's competition, youngsters Angelino, Aleix Garcia, Pablo Maffeo and Kelechi Iheanacho all made starts. At the Hawthorns, highly-rated Academy players Tosin Adarabioyo, Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz were all part of the squad but remained on the bench as City had to withstand a second half surge from the Baggies.
Guardiola now has the squad strength to make plenty of changes and put out a side full of experienced internationals. Against West Brom, he made eights alterations from the side that battered Watford 6-0 in the weekend with Claudio Bravo, Danilo, Ilkay Gundogan, Yaya Toure and Leroy Sane among those coming in.
City's reward was a win and a fourth round draw against Championship side Wolves where they will be firm favourites to claim a place in the quarterfinals. All their rivals at the top of the Premier League made it through too, with the exception of Liverpool, but City should have an edge over the other clubs in terms of squad depth.
Ironically, despite beating Burton 4-1, United don't seem as interested in the tournament this season, with Mourinho claiming after the game that English clubs could do without it. Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says they are too big a club to focus on winning the domestic cups, while Chelsea made wholesale changes for their third-round tie with Nottingham Forest, as did Arsenal in a 1-0 win over Doncaster.
So the door could be open for City to make progress in a competition that they have won twice in the last three years. It was Manuel Pellegrini's first trophy in 2014 before he went on to win the Premier League title the same season; then he won it again two years later to maintain an average of one trophy a year in his tenure -- though it wasn't enough for the Chilean to keep his job.
Guardiola is yet to claim his first. A League Cup triumph may not be the primary target for a club more focused on success in the Premier League and Champions League, but getting that first taste of glory could make landing the bigger trophies easier to secure.
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.