Column
by

Mourinho earns mockery with money moan, but Man United must spend or Guardiola will leave them in the dust

United boss rightly criticised for suggesting £300 million he has already spent ‘is not enough’, but an overhaul is needed to compete with Manchester City

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 1:27pm

It is hard not to scoff when Jose Mourinho claims spending nearly £300 million (US$403 million) on new signings is “not enough”, but for Manchester United’s owners that is the stark reality if they want to compete with Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s side are so far ahead in the Premier League table and on the pitch that all Mourinho can do this season is play catch-up and hope to finish second best.

Mourinho has spent £286.3 million on seven signings since taking over from Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2016. In the same time, Guardiola has put down £361.1 million on 17 signings.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager was also able to call upon the world-class duo of David Silva and Sergio Aguero after replacing Manuel Pellegrini, while he has developed Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling to the same level.

Only in goalkeeper David De Gea did Mourinho inherit a player of that standard, while he has since added Paul Pogba for £89 million.

“We are in the second year of trying to rebuild a football team you know is not one of the best teams in the world,” said Mourinho, after the tepid 2-2 home draw with Burnley, with City’s 1-0 win at Newcastle taking them 15 points clear at the top.

Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic have been great additions for United while Victor Lindelof shows promise and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has dazzled at times, but there are still glaring problems.

“Manchester City buy the full backs for the price of the strikers,” scoffed Mourinho, but the £120.8 million trio of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo, along with goalkeeper Ederson, were the final pieces of the puzzle for Guardiola, for whom Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have also been astute acquisitions.

That money also looks a better bet than the £75 million United paid for striker Romelu Lukaku, who has gone off the boil after an excellent start to the season and is keeping 20-year-old Marcus Rashford from developing in his natural position.

Quite how Mourinho can be satisfied with two 32-year-old orthodox wingers in Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia as his first-choice full backs is also a mystery.

“The recruitment has not been good enough in the previous five years, it’s been all over the place,” former United captain Gary Neville said after a win over West Brom which featured a United starting XI containing seven players who were at the club when Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Van Gaal signings Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have all come and gone, while Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian can’t be too far behind.

Marouane Fellaini, the much-maligned poster boy signing of the failed David Moyes era, also looks set for the Old Trafford exit with his contract up in the summer.

Of the other signings made by Moyes and Van Gaal, Mourinho seemingly doesn’t trust Luke Shaw after the left back’s injury problems and sees Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo as squad players, nothing more.

The Portuguese still has a massive rebuilding job on his hands 18 months on from taking over, and with Guardiola galloping into the distance, Mourinho cannot afford to waste more of United’s time and money on mediocre players.

“The boys are doing what they can and they are doing fine,” Mourinho said of his side, but the next phase of the overhaul has already begun, with United reportedly considering a £40 million bid for Bordeaux’s Brazilian forward Malcom in January.

If anyone has the financial muscle to challenge Guardiola’s City in the Premier League it is Mourinho’s United, but they will have to start flexing it soon.