Unless you’ve been trapped under a particularly tardy rock you will doubtlessly have heard that Pep Guardiola, Catalonia’s most loved son and Catalan of the year in 2009, is to take over the managerial reins at Manchester City next season. There will, I’m sure, be more than enough help from his ecstatic new employers to ease Pep’s path into his northern home. But as a Barcelona resident who once lived in Manchester I felt obliged to do my bit, helping Pep out with a few useful pointers as the Catalan’s Catalan trades the Teutonic swank of Munich for the rain-washed home of Joy Division.
1) The Rain
Manchester, as Txiki Begiristain may have pointed out as he tried to persuade Guardiola to take the Manchester City job, doesn’t actually get that much rain. In fact, if you look at the statistics, it only gets 810 mm of rainfall per year, just 5mm more than Munich.
But there are lies, damned lies and statistics and this is one of them. I’m not saying that this stat is wrong, per se, but the problem with Manchester is not so much the amount it rains, but the way.
That’s to say, Pep, you can bid goodbye to the dramatic tropical rain storms that hammer Catalonia, in favour of a constant, annoying drizzle. And when I say constant, I mean it: it rains roughly four days out of seven in Manchester and it feels like more. And if Pep’s a fan of barbecuing - something the endless personal profiles over the last few days have oddly failed to address - then he’s plain out of luck, as organising a barbecue in Manchester is akin to a game of rainy Russian Roulette.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Manchester and spent many happy years there. But it’s not called the Rainy City for nothing. Look at it this way: there’s a reason Manchester has produced so many world-beating bands when Barcelona hasn’t: in Barcelona you can go to the beach for about six months a year. In Manchester, tucking yourself up in a rehearsal studio laying down the doom-laden future of music helps keep you out of the rain.
2) The Football
Manchester, like Barcelona, is very much a football town, home to two of Europe’s preeminent teams, while watching football is an obsession for many Mancunians. But people in England watch football in a very different way to the Catalans: there’s no delicate tactical chat; no love for endless passing and - heaven forbid - no watching five a side B side leagues on a Wednesday evening. Instead, there’s lots of drinking, shouting and calling up radio talk shows in tears. It’s pretty good fun, in other words. But perhaps not quite what the endlessly urbane Guardiola will be expecting.
Oh, and a word of warning, Pep: if anyone asks you if you think England will win the World Cup, just say “yes”, OK? Do not, in any case, launch into a detailed tactical takedown of all England’s flaws. That’s not what we asked. And we don’t want to know.
3) The supporters
The home crowd is one of the best things about English football, typically cheering on their team enthusiastically even as they limp to a nil-nil home draw to Stoke. But the big difference between Manchester City and Barcelona games are the away supporters. At the Camp Nou you might get about 100 of them and you’ll need a telescope to make them out. At the Etihad, they will number in their thousands. And, much as they will probably quite like you deep down, Pep, for the 90 minutes of a match you are pretty much fair game for whatever insults they might throw at you. So just keep cool when, rather than applauding your fluid tactical selections, the away fans remind you ad nauseam that you’re going bald and you love Coldplay.
José Mourinho - sorry to mention him, but it’s true - was actually very good at this, managing to see the funny side when opposing fans accused him of buying his smart new coat from Matalan. Try to do the same, Pep, and we’ll all be a lot happier.
4) The Food
England’s food is much maligned - unfairly so, in most cases - and Manchester plays host not just to exemplary haute cuisine but also the delights of the Curry Mile, where you will find 70 different restaurants selling an incredible range of South Asian cuisine at very reasonable prices.
Pep, please, take a trip to the Curry Mile some time. You won’t regret it. Just don’t try ordering a glass of champagne to wash down your curry. It’s beer with curry, right? And in many cases you can even bring your own.
On the other hand, tapas in England is generally rubbish. It’s not so much that English restaurants can’t make it but the end product normally costs such exorbitant sums that it somehow ceases to be tapas-y.
Pep, I’m sure you can afford it. But all the fun is hoovered out of a plate of patatas bravas when the price is nudging 10 pounds. Oh, and Pep: no one in Manchester has even heard of a calçotata. Sorry. So stock up next time you’re in Valls.
5) The Nightlife
Manchester has stunning nightlife and if Pep develops a hitherto unlikely affection for Detroit techno he will be very well served there. But it’s probably safe to say that the city hasn’t quite got its head around the late-hours drinking culture in the same way that Barcelona has. In fact, late nights in Manchester city centre can resemble a bizarre cross between children’s birthday party and boxing match, as hordes of revellers, drunk to their very foundations, lurch around, making jokes, telling their best friends they love them and spoiling for a fight. It’s like the worst of Barcelona’s Ramblas, robbed of its seaside joviality and force-fed cheap vodka-based drinks. It can be a lot of fun, Pep. But whatever you do, don’t try to jump the taxi queue as you speed back to your Cheshire home after a night at the theatre.
6) The Sense of Humour
My girlfriend is Catalan. We’ve lived together for five years. And only now does she just about know when I’m making a joke. Maybe in the next five years she might even understand them.
The English sense of humour, then, is far, far removed from the Catalan. So just smile, Pep, and pretend you’ve at least recognised someone is telling a joke, even if your admirable footballing brain has fogged over at the alleged humour laid down in front of you. And don’t laugh at your own jokes, either. That’s very much not done.
Most of all though Pep, enjoy it. Manchester is a fantastic city and you will be adored by the City fans. Maybe you’ll succeed in turning around the club’s fortunes, forging a Northern English Barça that will thrill and devastate in equal measure. Maybe you won’t. But you’ll get to hear some fantastic music, eat the best curry of your life and maybe even crack the dry Mancunian sense of humour. So who cares if it rains?