Jose Mourinho understandably wasn’t very happy following Manchester United’s 2-2 draw against Burnley, even if his team were able to show some fight after going in two goals down at half-time.
In his usual style, Mourinho made controversial comments to deflect attention away from the poor result and his team falling 15 points behind rivals Manchester City.
Mourinho claimed that it was no surprise that United were behind City because of the difference in spending between the two teams. He was reminded that he has spent £300 million since taking charge at Old Trafford and, even if that figure is actually closer to £215 million, Mourinho argued it wasn’t enough.
Claudio Ranieri and Leicester proved in 2016 that spending money isn’t the be all and end all. While this will be regarded as a freak season, given the usual title contenders didn’t mount a serious challenge, it shows that money is only one element in building a successful team.
Louis van Gaal spent a small fortune in his time as United boss but the best he managed was finishing fourth one season and winning the FA Cup the next. He would argue the lack of investment during the latter years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at the club and David Moyes sucking the winning mentality out of the players meant huge sums of money were required.
His out-dated methods and wasted money meant the £59 million he spent on Angel Di Maria, only to play him out of position and not massage his fragile ego well enough, was a disastrous move. He signed Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, and Matteo Darmian for a combined £62 million. For the sake of comparison, City spent £64 million on Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane.
Mourinho, coming in as the third manager since Ferguson’s retirement, had even more work to do than his predecessor. As time had been passing, City were strengthening and improving, while United were falling further away.
Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial represent the only real successes that United had in the transfer market post-Ferguson and pre-Mourinho, and they account for the £100 million of the £315 million United spent during this time.
Mourinho would be wrong to suggest that the only reason for the difference in United and City’s current positions is money, as Pep Guardiola has done a fantastic job of raising the performances of the players already in the squad and adding quality new recruits. But he is right to mention it and put pressure on the Glazers to allow the club to do more in the transfer market.
The season before Guardiola and Mourinho moved to Manchester, City had the far superior squad. In fact, they should have won the league that season and likely would have done if not for the January announcement that the Spaniard would be replacing Manuel Pellegrini.
With 20 games played, they were just three points behind league leaders Arsenal and were favourites to claim the title, following the predictable collapse of Arsene Wenger’s team in the new year.
That squad included the key players in City’s success this season, like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, while also having the experience of Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, among others.
In contrast, when looking at the players that Mourinho inherited, David de Gea was the only one you could consider being world class, with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw the only others with real potential to improve and become top players.
Both managers have spent obscene amounts since, but Guardiola started with a squad in pole position for success, while Mourinho was already playing catch up. City have outspent United for three consecutive seasons on the back of their favourable starting position, so it really is no wonder their squad has so much more strength in depth.
That’s not to say that Mourinho would be playing devastating football like we’ve seen from Guardiola at City if he had been the bigger spender, but it might mean they wouldn’t be playing two old former wingers as their first choice full-backs, or that their midfield would have next to no quality when Paul Pogba spent months of the season out with injury.
City could afford to “buy full-backs for the price of strikers” (https://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/mourinho-claims-united-dont-spend-enough-while-city-buy-full-backs-price-strikers) because Guardiola didn’t need to build a brand new spine to the team, as Mourinho did when prioritising the purchases of Eric Bailly, Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.
The fact that two of those three key players have missed more games than they’ve played this season obviously hasn’t helped matters either.
But in Pogba, Mourinho knew he would have the engine of his team, which is why the £89 million outlay was vital.
Jurgen Klopp was not impressed at the time though, claiming he would rather walk away from football than pay such huge sums for one player (http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/liverpools-jurgen-klopp-would-quit-8513204). In his holier than thou remarks, he claimed that even if he did manage a club who could afford to pay so much for one player, he wouldn’t, as he wanted to bring about success “differently”.
After watching Mourinho lift the two trophies that Klopp was defeated in the finals of the previous season, maybe the German had a change of heart. Liverpool have just paid an incredible £75 million for Virgil van Dijk, making him the all-time most expensive defender in the world.
When Mourinho was asked about the huge transfer fee on Friday, he challenged the journalists to direct this to Klopp.
“I think the one to speak about it in a specific way has to be Jurgen,” he said. “And if I was one of you I would ask him about his comments about one year ago.”
Football clubs have to spend money if they want to compete. City are spending more money than anyone else year on year and, along with Guardiola’s coaching, are reaping the rewards.
As it stands, Chelsea and Liverpool have also outspent United this season, which puts the ball in the Glazer’s court. Mourinho has made it quite clear what he believes is required to be the best. Some may suggest the United manager is making excuses for himself but if money is not a key ingredient to success, then why has Guardiola spent €1 billion in just eight years of football management (http://www.marca.com/en/football/international-football/2017/07/25/59774463e5fdeafd7c8b4613.html). It’s not just a coincidence, is it?