At the close of play on Saturday night, Mourinho’s Manchester United were 16 points behind Premier League leaders City. Though on paper, that only tells half the story. How about a clear THIRTY-EIGHT goal difference between the two teams?
Top to bottom. On the pitch and off it. City aren’t just streets apart. It’s a bloody galaxy. And this isn’t about Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Indeed, we’d argue the United manager citing FFP when discussing Manchester’s blue half has a lot to do with running interference for those upstairs – particularly Ed Woodward.
Whether United’s vice-chairman exec appreciates the cover is anyone’s guess. But Mourinho knows no-one among City’s top brass would be running down Guardiola in quiet press ‘briefings’ when the mood takes them.
But then again, you’d expect as much from City’s front office these days. A front office choc full of football talent. Men like Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano. Dedicated to meeting the demands of their manager. And above them Khaldoon al-Mubarak. A hands-off chairman, who knows figures and bottom lines, but leaves the football side of things to the proven experts.
City’s domination hasn’t come from ignoring – nor breaking – UEFA’s ridiculous FFP laws. The success has arrived from correct decisions being made by individuals in their respective positions of responsibility.
It’s United – not City – which ‘boast’ the biggest wage bill in the country. Of course, that also means the biggest ever seen in the game. And on average, United pay their first teamers over £600,000 more a year compared to City. It’s United which are shelling out over £500,000-a-week to Alexis Sanchez – and only after Khaldoon refused to meet the Chilean’s demands last January. And it’s United – not City – which paid a world record fee for Paul Pogba. Go further back. Pre-Mourinho. And there’s a long, long list of wasters… Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao – two players Mourinho turned down at Chelsea. Memphis Depay, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Morgan Schneiderlin… all have come and gone – and at a big loss.
Yes, City have done their recycling – as Mourinho has pointed out this season. The difference being that when Guardiola has requested it, City’s management team have supported him.
The goalkeeper’s not up to it? Then find another. Then another. The fullbacks the same. Benjamin Mendy is already seeing himself being replaced in the continental press. There’s no arguing from upstairs. No demands of ‘work with what you have’. And it’s all done with an eye on football. No player has arrived at City during the Soriano/Txiki era with a shirt seller reputation. And no player has arrived on the crazy wages Woodward has thrown at his signings since he succeeded David Gill five years ago.
That’s one of the foundations of this City squad’s success. There’s no great salary disparity amongst City’s senior players. Soriano managing to meet Guardiola’s demands without breaking team harmony.
Just consider the revelation in last season’s ‘All or Nothing’ doco regarding Virgil van Dijk. City were in for the defender before Christmas – but not at Southampton’s price. Instead, they allowed the Dutchman to move onto Liverpool and tapped their own knowledge base to bring in Aymeric Laporte. A cheaper, younger version of Van Dijk, who has looked a world-beater this season. With a buyout clause in his Athletic Bilbao deal, Laporte was also available to United, Liverpool, indeed virtually every club in the Premier League. But it was Soriano and Txiki whom pulled the trigger, confident in the reports built up on the defender since watching him as a teen while they were still with Barcelona.
Does United boast such football IP? Of course not. But as mentioned, this runs much, much deeper than the first team.
Before victory over Bournemouth, Guardiola expressed frustration, even exasperation, over Brahim Diaz’s refusal to sign a new City deal. Off contract in June, the 19 year-old midfielder has his pick of clubs to move next summer – and he’s likely to choose the biggest, Real Madrid.
So he leaves. As Jadon Sancho did a year ago. But City won’t skip a beat. Even this past summer, they’ve seen Javairo Dilrosun depart for Hertha Berlin – and win a first Holland cap this season. Bobby Duncan has left for Liverpool and is now tearing things up with the U18s (the lad hitting four goals and creating two assists in Saturday’s 6-5 win over Middlesbrough). And Angelino, sold to PSV Eindhoven, is now on the brink of a Spain call.
That’s some talent to lose. The backbone of a future team. At United, losing four such youngsters would mean crisis. Problem is, they don’t have four youngsters like that. In contrast, City march on. Filling their academy with more young talent. The latest being Eric Garcia, who is already on the fringes of the first team after just a year at City since being tempted away from Barcelona.
From the academy to the first team, City’s spending hasn’t been outlandish. Headline-making. It’s been considered. Surgical. And done with the confidence of decisions made by experts in their field.
Mourinho is wrong. City’s dominance isn’t about FFP. It’s about the individuals. Man for man. Who are making the right – and wrong – transfer calls for their respective clubs.