Tottenham need FA Cup win but Jose Mourinho wants it more
Saturday's FA Cup semifinal between Manchester United and Tottenham brings to mind the old quote from Bill Shankly, who, while laying the foundations for success at Liverpool, insisted: "First is first and second is nowhere."
You can imagine Jose Mourinho living and breathing that sentiment, with the United manager never missing an opportunity to remind the world how many trophies he has won and how he has done it in every country in which he has managed.
As for Mauricio Pochettino, we are still waiting to discover whether the Spurs boss is driven by the same win-at-all-costs mentality that defines Mourinho.
Pep Guardiola is cut from the same cloth as Mourinho and Shankly, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Brian Clough and all the other managerial greats who have dominated English football. They have adopted different methods and contrasting playing styles, but ultimately, when there is a trophy to be won, the approach has always been to win it and leave it for others to judge its merits.
Pochettino, for all of his fine work at Tottenham, has yet to win a major trophy and the FA Cup offers him the perfect chance to get one on the board this season. Yet the Argentine has made it pretty clear he regards the FA Cup and Carabao Cup as second-tier trophies which pale into insignificance when compared to the Premier League and Champions League.
Guardiola did not seem to mind winning the "second tier" Carabao Cup with Manchester City this season and Mourinho celebrated lifting that trophy and the Europa League last term as though they were the first two cups of his managerial career.
Pochettino will almost certainly react the same way if Spurs can overcome United at Wembley this weekend before going on to win the FA Cup next month, but he does not hide his belief that an FA Cup success would do little to effect the mentality of his players in terms of achieving the real goals of winning the league or Champions League.
"When you win a real tournament, when you need to play under pressure and perform at your best over 10 months -- that is the moment when you start to learn about winning," Pochettino said last month. "Winning a cup is going to help, but to create that winning culture you need to work a lot and take many steps. It is not: 'Oh, I am going to create a winning culture in two months [at the end of a cup run].'"
History would suggest Pochettino is wrong, however, to claim that cup success will not have a crucial impact on his club and his players.
Spurs are a team on the brink of a golden period, but to be the best, they need to take steps along the way and FA Cup glory would suddenly give him a dressing room full of players with a winners' medal and the belief they can climb to the top of the mountain.
Ferguson always pointed to two domestic cup wins as being the launch-pads for periods of dominance for United. The FA Cup victory in 1990 was Ferguson's first trophy at Old Trafford and it sparked the most successful decade in the club's history by laying the foundations for United's first league title win in 26 years three years later.
And the 2006 League Cup win against Wigan, which ended a two-year trophy drought, saw Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra win with United for the first time. Within the next five years, the team had won three league titles and a Champions League, as well as reaching two other finals against Barcelona.
Similarly, City ended their 35-year wait for a trophy by winning the FA Cup in 2011 -- Roberto Mancini's players defeated United in the semifinal at Wembley -- and the club has since become the most successful English team this decade.
You cannot pick and choose when you win, but by playing down the importance of the FA Cup, Pochettino risks his players adopting the same mentality.
Spurs need a trophy. They have not won the FA Cup since 1991 and you have to go back another 30 years for their last league title, so the value of lifting the cup this season cannot be overstated.
Mourinho, in contrast to Pochettino, will be desperate to win the FA Cup. His tough-talking approach this week, in which he has openly criticised his players, is a pointer toward his determination to win on Saturday.
United are a team in transition under Mourinho, but he has already won two major trophies while rebuilding at Old Trafford. He knows that the big two -- Premier League and Champion League -- are the ones that truly matter, but he also knows that you cannot be selective when it comes to silverware.
To be first in something is better than being second and Mourinho will always chase glory to the point of distraction.
But Pochettino still needs to develop that ruthless streak and learn that one trophy can lead to another.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_