What £100m meant in Manchester

What £100m meant in Manchester

Back at the start of the season, What £100m means in Manchester looked at the two differing approaches Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho took to their respective rebuilds at Manchester City and Manchester United. The main crux of the issue was Mourinho’s seemingly small recruitment drive, with a large portion of his budget splashed on one man – Paul Pogba. Guardiola was applauded for a policy of planning for the future.

As ever, football is a results business. Both managers had the luxury of being able to impress upon the board the size of the task ahead. José could nod to the failing of two previous regimes, Pep had – and still has – the bonus of being so vaunted by his employers, he is virtually “unsackable.”

This doesn’t mean he, or his United counterpart, is beyond criticism and analysis. Each would have entered the season with personal objectives, presumably closely aligned with the board’s. Despite the early bookmakers’ odds, neither would have courted the idea of a Premier League title.

Even six straight wins to kick off the league campaign, with cup victories interspersed, Pep seemed reluctant to talk-up City’s title chances. He went as far to say a defeat would be a good thing. Was this the first sign he realised his squad couldn’t live up to the hype? Did he want to see how players would react under adversity?

He didn’t have to wait too long.

Many point to the 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea as the season’s turning point. It was a game City rightly feel hard done by, but it wasn’t the significant moment many point to. That came on 21st September, with the laborious League Cup victory away to Swansea City.

Brendan Rodgers was declared the architect of City’s new tactical demise when they faced off in the 3-3 Champions League group stage match a week later. All he did was apply the same approach Swansea had. It was simple: City don’t like the pressing game played back on them.

When teams are winning, every decision the manager makes is genius, his transfer policy justified. By the 10th December’s 4-2 defeat by an underperforming Leicester City, with three defeats, three draws and three wins in the league since the start of October, it was time to ask questions.

A transfer policy that planned for the future failed to deal with problems in the present. It was no secret City needed full backs before a ball was kicked, and yet the team had no reinforcements and was even converting one into a makeshift centre-half.

Managers live and die by signings; the Claudio Bravo move was never popular with a core base of fans due to the Joe Hart connotations. It didn’t take long for the rest of the crowd to turn on the mistake riddled Chilean. It’s ironic that for a squad with two players named Jesus, it’s the goalkeeper that appeared to have holes in his hands.

Bravo Transfer Man City

City began to look one dimensional – good at the front, weak at the back, no plan B (a remark Pellegrini would smirk at now) – but signs of life were to come.

Over at Old Trafford, Mourinho did was he does best. He made the team hard to beat after suffering two consecutive defeats early on in the league. Unlike the Van Gaal awkwardness, there were signs the Portuguese manager was making strides forward. The problem was those around him took bigger ones.

United became experts at finding draws.

In hindsight, his more direct approach in the transfer market deserves plaudits. The four players brought in – Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba – all had good seasons. Pogba was the only player to face negative remarks, but that’s the cost of a £89m transfer clouding judgement.

Zlatan Ibrahimović United

Ibrahimović, season ending injury aside, did maintain the same high level throughout, dispelling concerns about his age.

All this United based positivity does, is fail to acknowledge one small minor issue: this isn’t the season José planned or talked about.

Before a ball was kicked, he spoke of getting his four players. It’s all he wanted. He gave his requests list to Edward Woodward and stated the quartet mentioned above was all he needed to make Manchester United competitive again.

When he made this claim (or should that be promise?) he wasn’t alluding to a sixth-place finish, England’s secondary cup and the Europa League.

This isn’t to devalue United’s achievements. Every fan that travels to Wembley wants to win and holds the League Cup in high regard on the day. And even though Mourinho himself has denounced the Europa League in the past, it is now an important prize.

Added to the equation it was the only piece of silverware United had never won and it feels like a grand achievement.

MUFC UEL

And it is, if only for the return of Champions League football, the riches it brings, and the players it allows clubs to attract.

But it was a last-ditch gamble from Mourinho. He went into the casino and placed all his chips on one colour (we’ll assume red) and hoped for the best. When he made his transfer requests to Woodward, so publicly as to bend his arm on the Pogba chase, a top four spot was the least of his desires.

To dip out, and in some fashion, would never have been the plan.

So, who spent their £100m best?

It’s hard to say – which indicates failings on both sides – but it comes down to who is positioned best moving forward.

City and United have slipped straight into the Champions League group stage. This will aid with some transfers and Guardiola doesn’t need to juggle an awkward qualifier this year. But just being in Europe’s elite competition isn’t good enough on its own.

The year of grace for both men has passed. Gambler or not, Mourinho needs to identify fast which players will turn his solid unit into a team with a sharp bite. Regardless of European performance this year, it’s hard to see the Old Trafford hierarchy accepting a league campaign that doesn’t have them in the title race.

The same goes for Guardiola, there has to be a clear upward trend. His transfers were a mixed bag. When the original article was written at the start of the season, the £100m figure was neat and tidy regarding both clubs’ Net Total. In reality, City spent a further £56m (£4m deducted for a youth transfer signed for in 2013) following the closing of the books at the season’s end.

Where Mourinho added several and worked with the rest, Pep brought in three times this amount but only kept six of the faces at the club. His nose for a bargain in the form of Nolito petered out, as did the belief John Stones would transform into a world class player before our eyes. It may still happen, but it was a burden the young Yorkshire man struggled with.

İlkay Gündoğan arrived injured and is so again. A gamble taken in a dressing room that often resembles a Bupa clinic. But eyes on the Leroy Sané’s second half of the season and Gabriel Jesus prove the Spaniard has a solid plan in place.

Gabriel Jesus

This was always a big undertaking. He isn’t trying to build upon the success of former managers, instead it’s a process of ripping out the footballing foundations at the club and starting again in his image.

Pep overvalued the talent at his disposal and underestimated the Premier League.

Unlike Mourinho, Pep – quite often to a fault – never criticises his players to the press. But one has to assume behind closed doors he’s been fuming. He must have expected more from them or that initial £100m would have been spent on emergency measures rather than youngsters – like Oleksandr Zinchenko and Marlos Moreno – who have yet to see a City shirt.

Mourinho’s experience and insight afforded him a more tailored approach. But the table never lies, and a year on from a change of managers, there has been clear – albeit, slow – progress at City. This will allow Pep more time to complete his vision.

He appears to appreciate the size of the task now, his early big money moves in the post-season prove this.

As for United, the Europa League success has given them a return to the perceived top table. If they fail to press those above in the coming season, a new type of pressure will come down on José. The safety net has been removed.

£100m meant both teams in Manchester breathed sighs of relief by the end of May. United had silverware for their endeavours but both clubs will look at the Premier League table and realise a monumental task still awaits.

Come August, we could be asking what £300m means in Manchester.

What £100m means in Manchester

What £100m means in Manchester

The two clubs baring Manchester in their name have both spent big this summer. But that is where the similarity ends. In the centre of Manchester, Pep Guardiola has spread his cash as he rebuilds and reimagines The Citizens style of play. Over in Trafford, their new man at the helm José Mourinho, also faces a reshaping job. But he has decided to take a big, singular gamble. There is a reason for these two differing approaches.

The irony of United being the club to break the world transfer record, when it was “City ruining football” with their accelerated growth period, won’t go unnoticed with football fans around the country. But the protracted Paul Pogba transfer is the peak of a continued period of United high-spending.

Moyes, Van Gaal, and now Mourinho, have all been supported by the Glazers in the transfer market.

The ethics of a £100m move have been widely discussed. Regardless of opinion, the truth is football’s finance has been heading this way for a long time. The new TV money should have found its way back to the pockets of fans but this was always going to be difficult when chairman saw it as a way to increase the ransoms on their top players.

Juventus have only done what Everton have been trying for the last two summers, and this despite the Goodson Park outfit benefitting from the increased TV revenue and a new, presumably richer, owner. The Italian club have a tighter budget, if they hadn’t broken the world record fee with United’s money, Real Madrid would have stepped in and come close.

What makes the move murkier for United, are the reports the Frenchman preferred a move to the Spanish giants. A few eyebrows must have been raised from Sir Alex Ferguson to Sir Bobby Charlton, when the realisation hit home that a player who left for a tribunal fee, looked to be returning, somewhat underwhelmed, for a world record fee.

The debate about whether he is worth the fee is null and void. The moment a club are willing to pay a price, that is the market value.

What the Pogba debacle does, is detract attention from United’s net summer spend. The positive press campaign focuses on four acquisitions, one of them Zlatan Ibrahimovic for absolutely nothing. A player of such quality on a free transfer is more than a bargain, the only doubts surround his ability to step up from the tamer French league to the tough English season at the age of 34.

The other half of Mourinho’s summer quartet are Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly. At a combined fee of £68m they are hardly cheap supplements to the lofty pursuit of Pogba.

This is where the Manchester divide became a chasm over the summer.

As it stands City, who admittedly are still seeking reinforcements, have spent £114m and recouped £10m. Both of those figures are set to rise, with the imbalance increasing on the expenditure side of the equation.

For the price of one Pogba, City have brought in six new faces and still have over £60m to go before equalling United’s outgoings. This is without acknowledging the offloading process City are going through which is trickling some cash back into the coffers.

The reason the alternative approaches are so glaring is because both clubs had the same problem: they need complete overhauls.

José Mourinho even commented lately that he needed twenty players to undo the damage inflicted from the Louis Van Gaal era, and that his approach differed so wildly, it would take many new faces to adjust the style.

So why place all his faith in one big summer signing?

Because he lacks a luxury only Pep Guardiola can boast in the modern world of football: time.

The Spaniard holds a major advantage over José and it isn’t a bigger cheque book or even a better youth system. It’s the lack of urgency for immediate results. The Etihad board didn’t allow the Pellegrini era end with a canter to then make a kneejerk reaction with their long-term managerial target.

Guardiola knows he can take his time developing new signings like Marlos Moreno without fearing the need for instant success. That’s not to say he can fail to achieve minimum targets. Champions League qualification is a must to the big clubs. But even failure to meet that wouldn’t necessarily cost Pep his job.

Mourinho is breathing the air of a different planet. He is a proven manager that suddenly has everything to prove. After the Chelsea sacking, he can’t afford a slow start, let alone a disappointing season. He didn’t have the support of the entire United board but he was seen as a necessary evil.

That conjoined dilemma of club and man brought them together. Now they face a future where development gives way to desperation in the transfer market.

Mourinho is in the casino, play for high stakes risks, and Pogba is one big throw of the dice.

His inner-city rival can smile and take cab journeys with fans instead. He has the time to send players like Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus on loan, not worry about Ilkay Gündogan’s lengthy injury, or bend to transfer fee demands he feels excessive. And all the time he works the current crop – whom many now seek redemption – into his mould.

Leicester proved last year that money doesn’t guarantee success, this season Manchester will see if patience pays dividends.

Pound Sterling

Pound Sterling

So after much mudslinging, with press speculation on the reasons why and possible motives, Raheem Sterling has joined Manchester City for a fee that could rise to £49M. Liverpool fans are soothing themselves with the loss of a prized asset by revelling in the amount received. Openly taunting at taking the coffers to the cleaners. To put it another way: Scousers are laughing at committing robbery. But as high as the fee sounds – and it does sound a lot – it’s the same fans that tried to convince the world £35M for Andy Carroll made sense. It wasn’t, whereas the Sterling figure won’t seem so stupid if he reaches his potential.

Therein lies the first problem. Is Sterling going to reach that “potential”? City fans have heard this term banded about a lot in recent years. Mario Balotelli was given all the chances in the world because he had lots of it. Rodwell and Sinclair were brought in as it was assumed City could fill them out into the players we all hoped they could be. Buying potential is a trip to the casino.

Sheikh Mansour is justified – on this occasion, especially – to feel he can bet on red or black a few times. In reality the chances are stacked higher in his favour than the slightly less than half a roulette spin offers. If Raheem becomes the next big young talent his value will quickly eclipse the £49M shelled out. Take Paul Pogba, another City target, the fee floating around for him currently stands at £71M. This is with the proviso he still hasn’t reached his full potential.

Transfer fees will always be a bone of contention. They continue to rise in a time when the world is facing tough austerity measures and countries like Greece face economic collapse. To make matters worse, they continue to rise from an already over-inflated base line. Yes, £49M is a lot. But it also happens to be the market value for a young promising, home-grown talent.

What I find more disturbing than the price is the treatment of a young twenty year old by members of the press, former teammates and “fans.” Stevie G, the Liverpool legend that never won a league title, not so subtlety sounded Sterling out as unprofessional and possessing a bad attitude when comparing him to the new Liverpool captain Jordan Horrenduson. Nice to know Steven helped nurture that talent under his watch.

Gerrard is obviously offended that a player would choose to leave his club for a rival. It makes the statement that the modern day professional sees Liverpool as a place less likely to collect titles. He should remind himself he once thought the same and agreed to join Chelsea, only changing his mind when the threats from fans came in.

Raheem has also faced disgusting abuse and threats to his wellbeing along with his daughter’s. He has stood tall and will see out the storm. Hopefully there’ll be an added element of protection surrounding him during this time. And perhaps a little TLC will work wonders too. I can’t begin to imagine how he feels reading such threats when his own father was murdered back when Raheem was only nine years of age.

Jamie Carragher has also been outspoken and condemned Sterling. It doesn’t come from the mouth of a neutral Sky Sports presenter. He lacks the ability of Gary Neville, who can be a Manchester United man at heart but still speak sense, of reporting the news rather than opinion as fact. He clearly wanted Sterling to stay and arrogantly assumes it will be better for Raheem if he did. Apart from the argument he would get more game time at Liverpool, it is founded on nothing more than blinkered hearsay.

It’s typical of the anti-City media to turn the transfers of the Citizens into a carnival while applauding preferred click-bait teams for their market endeavours. Memphis Depay, not exactly a snip at £25M, has been packaged as future world-beater. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t say either way. It seems only bitter former pros and bad journalists can see future events with any clarity. To top off this sentiment, SportYapper notified users today Sterling had asked for a nap during his Man City medical.

Back to the price, it also needs to be noted QPR receive a slice as part of their sell-on clause. This will have ramped it up. Add this to the home grown quota he fills, along Liverpool’s reluctance to sell, and it’s less grotesque. The price tag will hang heavy for a while. Di Maria still carries his around in a wheelbarrow. All Raheem Sterling can do is produce form on the field. With every successful game the pounds will drop away. With success he can prove this was never about cash but about football.

About winning.