As Premiership champions, it seems only fair that United will be put under pressure next season. With a manager who has proved his worth over 20 great years at the club, it only seems right that we’re expected to be up at the top again next season. Whilst Chelsea have been blaming injuries and failing to address the real issues (believing if they’d had John Terry and Petr Cech fit all season we would have won the league, even though they boasted the best defensive record in the league last season without them, and it was their attack and midfield which let them down), United have been focusing on bringing back their 10th Premiership title in the coming season.
We have so far brought in three quality players in Hargreaves, Andersson and Nani, on deals which could rise to just under £50 million, but currently stand at around the £35 million mark. However, just as with past transfers for players like Carrick and Rooney, for example, the press and our rivals prefer to quote the inflated figure.
Jose Mourinho has spoken out about our spending this week, claiming the pressure is on us. “Manchester United’s spending is something that we don’t control, we don’t want to control – we don’t comment, we don’t want to comment,” and then goes on to comment, “but when we spent some millions, everybody pointed at us as the team with more responsibility to win. This was because we were the spenders in the market. That’s not the case this season. The only player we’ve bought was Florent Malouda. We are very happy with that.”
Now, this summer, we have spent around £35 million, and Chelsea have spent around £13 million, as well as scooping up a couple of players on the Bosman (and hopefully, they’ll do as well as their last Bosman signing). Yep, we’ve spent more this summer, and if the only players who were competing for us next season were the ones we’d just bought, maybe there would be some logic to Mourinho’s comment, which he didn’t want to make, but couldn’t quite help himself from making.
Now we all know Chelsea have spent more than us since the Roman era began, but I thought it would be interesting to just look at how much. After the likes of Terry, Lampard, Robben, Makelele and Cech had been secured prior to Mourinho taking over, incurring hundreds of millions, the Portguese manager has spent a hefty sum too. If spending £35 million in one summer gives us more responsibility to win, let’s just take a look at how much pressure there should be on Chelsea.
If we compare our spending from the last time we won the title, to the summer preceding the year we won it, to Chelsea’s spending since Jose has taken over, maybe it might put Jose’s comments in to perspective a little, perhaps.
Over the past three seasons before this summer, United have been virtually spending what they’ve made in sales. From the summer 2003 to the summer of 2006, United made £78.7 million from transfers (David Beckham £25 million, Juan Sebastian Veron £15 million, Nicky Butt £2 million, Diego Forlan reportedly £3 million, Eric Djemba-Djemba £3.5 million, Phil Neville £5 million, Kleberson £2.5 million, John Obi Mikel £12 million, Jonathan Spector £0.5 million, Ruud van Nistelrooy £10.2 million) and spent £98 million (David Bellion £2 million, Eric Djemba-Djemba £3.5 million, Tim Howard £2.2 million, Cristiano Ronaldo £12.2 million, Kleberson £5.9 million, Louis Saha £12.82 million, Alan Smith £7 million, Gabriel Heinze £6.9 million, Wayne Rooney £27 million, Edwin van der Sar £2 million, Park Ji-Sung £4 million, Nemanja Vidic £7 million, Patrice Evra £5.5 million), leaving an overall outgoing of just £20 million, so an average of £6-7 million a season. With this, Sir Alex Ferguson created the current champions, boasting one of the very best first XIs in Europe.
From the summer of 2004 to the summer of 2006, Jose Mourinho has spent £185.75 million, (Didier Drogba £24 million, Ricard Carvalho: £19.85 million, Michael Essien: £24.4 million, Ashley Cole undisclosed, Hilarious undisclosed, Andriy Shevchenko £30, Shaun Wright-Phillips: £21, John Obi Mikel: £16, Khalid Boulahrouz £8.5, Solomon Kalou: £8, Paulo Ferreira: £13, Mateja Kezman: £5, Tiago: £8, Asier Del Horno £8) and made £44.1 million from sales, (Duff £5 million, Gudjohnsen £8 million, Scott Parker £6.5 million, Tiago £6.5 million, Huth £6 million, Kezman £5.3 million, Smertin £1 million, Babyaro £1 million, Del Horno £4.8 million), leaving an overall out going of £143.65 million, so an average of £71.8 million a season.
Jose is right to a certain extent, there will be pressure on us next season, as we are the current Champions, but to bring our spending in to it is nothing short of pathetic. If we look at the spending over the past few seasons, Liverpool and Tottenham are amongst the other clubs who have spent more than us. Has the pressure been on them? Have they had the responsibility to be the best team in the country on their shoulders?
The pressure was on us in ’93, when we won our first title in 26 years, but that didn’t stop us from going on to scoop the Double the following season. Winning the double in ’96 didn’t stop us from retaining the title in ’97. Then the season of all seasons, winning the league, the FA Cup and the European Cup in ’99 didn’t put enough pressure on Sir Alex to stop him from winning the league again in 2000, and again in 2001. If anything, our manager thrives on the pressure, loves doing what he’s been told he can’t, and Mourinho’s latest comments are a help rather than a hindrance to Fergie’s pre-season planning.
Effortlessly, yet again, Ferguson managed to deflect Jose’s comments, and prove the not so special one has a long way to go before he can even begin to compete in the war of words with ol Sir. “It’s an amazing statement actually,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think he knows I’ve been here for 20 years. Whether he is trying to transfer some of the pressure – maybe he’s under pressure himself, I don’t know. I thought it was quite funny.”
Pressure is spending over £200 million on transfers in three seasons, and desperately seeking to win back a title you are now second favourites to win. Jose Mourinho knows all about that, and knows all too well his neck is on the line if he doesn’t win the league this season. Whilst he can publicly state winning the FA Cup was more important to him last season than the Premiership, winning the league is what proves you’re the best, and with £200 million of Roman’s money being spent by Jose, on top of the hundreds of million spent before him, that is something Jose needs to prove this season. What does Ferguson need to prove?
For the first time in years, United are starting the season as favourites to win the league, and that is a pressure Ferguson hasn’t felt recently, but it is a pressure he has felt time and again in the past and dealt with successfully. I certainly don’t feel the weight on my shoulders as a fan like I felt at the start of last season, and I imagine that is a feeling reflected by the players and manager alike.
These are exciting times for our club, and retaining the title is an important step in establishing our place as the country’s elite. As always, we’ll have people against us, we’ll have the press tearing us down every opportunity they can, we’ll have teams playing against us like it’s their cup final, but we are on the verge of establishing possibility one of our greatest ever sides, pressure or not. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy, soak up the pressure, and wish the next four weeks away.