By Tony Attwood
José Mourinho became manager of Manchester United in May 2016. In five transfer windows he spent around £400m on 11 players. The media men on the inside say that in each case the choice of player was his.
The Guardian is saying that not only are the results poor from the first team but that the management other than the manager (if you see what I mean) didn’t like the style of play and they were unhappy about the way younger players were being developed.
The general estimate is that Mourinho will get around £15m in compensation. It is also being said that there will be a caretaker in for the rest of this season, and a new manager (already recruited) from next season. Across the last two seasons Mourinho won one more match than Arsenal in the league.
In the two year period both clubs were beaten finalists in a competition: Man U in the FA Cup, Arsenal in the League cup.
Interestingly Arsenal completely out scored Man U across the two years: Manchester Unitd knocked in 122 goals in the two complete seasons, but Arsenal scored 151 – maybe that made a difference. In terms of trophies Man U, like Arsenal, won one trophy in the two seasons – they won the Europa, Arsenal won the FA Cup.
But it was the money spent that was the real problem. £400m across the windows of Summer 2016, January and summer 2017 and January and summer 2018, including £63 million last summer.
That amount is not too different from Arsenal last summer, but the lack of previous heavy spending by Arsenal and the current league table shows the difference. They are only one place behind Arsenal but eight points behind, and 11 points off the magical fourth place which is not a trophy.
But that goals situation stand out and affects the club as much as the money thrown at players. A goal difference of zero – unusual for Manchester United. Last season they finished with a GD of plus 40, their best since 2010.
Presumably their next manger will come in at the end of this season and start buying, spending another £100m. More than any club Manchester United can do this within the rules because they make such a huge profit. They have big stadium which they have occupied since 1910 (no need to build a new one either using their own money – as per Arsenal – or the state’s money as per WHU and Manchester City). And they had the foresight to start a world wide marketing scheme back in the 1960s.
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So the money is there and they can buy their way back to the top, but their problems at the moment show us that although buying one’s way to the top is possible – Liverpool and Manchester City have done that – it is not an absolute guarantee of success. Even with a manager who has won a whole load of trophies before.
And there is one other problem besides the fact that buying players is not an absolute guarantee of success. Nor is it a guarantee of continuity. Here is a big spenders’ table for recent years showing their league position.
Liverpool Man U, Man C, and Chelsea have money to burn, and they go on spending and spending, but even with the unimaginable resources of Manchester City, they can’t seem to buy supremacy every year. The last club to retain the title was Manchester United in 2009. Since they the expenditure has risen to previously unheard of levels. But no one seems to have been able to retain the league title no matter what they spend.
In the Wenger era fourth was not a trophy, as I often like to repeat. But for the clubs that spend, second isn’t a trophy either.
There is an issue here. Although there are limits on salaries that can be paid by clubs, this measure does not seem to be reigning in expenditure on transfers and so we can probably expect, year on year, the four teams in black in the list above to keep on keeping on with the money being spashed out.
Arsenal’s expenditure last summer appeared to be a one-off to help the new manager along. Whether we’ll be in that spending league next time around remains to be seen, but I suspect not.
Clearly a club can with the title without spending a fortune – as Leicester showed – but it is rare. Without the money one needs a manager of great guile, combined with an excellent youth programme which not only produces young players but also gives them a chance. Oh yes, and a shedload of luck.