The United manager ascertained that the £286 million spent by the club under his management hadn’t paid the kind of returns that Guardiola’s eye-catching splash of £360 million had resulted in.
More versatile and winning players, 13 to be specific, were purchased by the Sky Blues in comparison to Mourinho’s questionable tally of 7. To further the contrast, City offloaded 10 players to United’s 8. Through these figures, it is easy to see whose board places a larger degree of trust on their manager, and to what results they were met with.
Now, with the January window coming up as well as the summer period to contend with, Mourinho looks adamant to match the spending of his rivals and then some. In his own words, to make United a big team, the following signings will be crucial to the side’s future:
A simple look at the state of United’s wing play during their 2-2 draw against Burnley speaks volumes of the work that needs to be done, particularly since the Clarets in contrast put in a better flank-based performance.
Mourinho has been harping on for quite a while about the need for wingers. To further his misery, the inconsistent spells of Martial and Rashford don’t appear to be a permanent solution. While occasional goals might flow, the two youngsters simply aren’t natural wingers, and as of such, a dip into the transfer market is a must.
The first name that comes to mind is that of Gareth Bale, who tends to always be linked with a move to Old Trafford. Save for his injury-prone nature, the Welshman could contribute significantly to the Red Devils, as his knack for creativity would better the relative inexperience of the United youngsters.
Next up on the list is a player who ticks all of Bale’s boxes as well, apart from injury. Ivan Perisic was stubbornly pursued by Mourinho for a reason, and the Inter Milan winger is one that could integrate with near perfection in an ideal United setup. But the nature with which the move fell apart in the summer would appear to be discouraging.
But the name that has been linked consistently in recent weeks is that of Malcom, a young Brazilian whose stint at Bordeaux has strongly caught the eye of United, and he certainly could be a cheaper and a potentially more profitable signing when compared to the other names on the list.
As things stand, it seems likely that Mourinho will be able to obtain the services of the 20-year-old in a similar fashion as that of Depay from a few seasons ago. If that does occur, let’s hope his success will be better than that of Memphis.
2. Central Attacking Midfielder
Perhaps the most ignored spot at Old Trafford. Should an apt and world-class signing be made, the creative and offensive troubles that often creep into their attacking ploys so far this season can be amended with ease.
With a host of players being tried in the spot, to a largely unsuccessful degree of success, a transfer is a must. Unfortunately, this is also the case for several other clubs, and the talents in the area happen to be some of the best in the game, and thus, will likely be the most expensive signings for the Portuguese tactician.
The first name is that of another long-term target, Antoine Griezmann. Despite his relatively slow start with Atletico Madrid this season, the quality of the Frenchman is of no doubt. The very arguments that were posed in favor of his transfer in the summer still apply, and if anything, they hold much more weight now.
But whether or not he is cut out for the Premier League is an important question, dwarfing even the potential interest that Barcelona have allegedly placed on him.
This makes the next player a more apt signing. Paulo Dybala is a much-wanted man if speculation is to be believed, and the most apparent name on the list if Manchester United.
At 24, his skills have a mature outlook that few others can match, and at Juventus, he has already shown both the hunger and the technique that would make him suitable for Champions League football. His presence could easily solve the goal tally issue that the toothless Lukaku seems to be facing lately.
3. Central Midfielder
A spot that would come as a surprise to United fans, as it seems to be in quite good hands under Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, but alas that is not the case.
The duo hasn’t been functioning with the smoothness that is requisite of good football, and the contrast between a holding midfielder and a naturally attacking player is highly apparent. As of such, a signing, if made, must be of the nature of balancing things out as well as securing the heart of the play for quite many years.
And the perfect player for this task could be Sergej Milinković-Savić. At 22, he would complement Pogba’s youth as well, and could be introduced as a better alternative down the line. While bringing in Matic has had a marked improvement in United’s style of play, a good deal of his contributions has gone in vain.
As of such, even if a January moves falls through, prioritizing him for the long term would do the Mancunian giants much good.
The position that Mourinho laments the most about, and one that allegedly had multiple targets in the summer window. While Luke Shaw was introduced back to playing time against Burnley, his performance, despite the hungry attacking flair to it, can’t be assured of consistency.
If United are serious in challenging and eventually trumping City, then this signing will be instrumental, as the likes of Young and Rojo cannot continue to achieve what the Old Trafford faithful want. The same reasons as mentioned in the wingers’ section apply here too, by virtue of United’s style of play.
Tottenham’s Danny Rose is the figure most likely to be purchased by the former Chelsea manager. Apart from being unhappy with the London side, the pace of the 27-year-old could prove to be magical in a United jersey, and hence, aid the possibility of this transfer going through.
Alex Sandro is another Juventus name that is believed to be strongly targeted by Chelsea and United. He could certainly prove to be an apt replacement as well should they be unable to secure the services of Rose, and at 26 years of age, is an equally attractive prospect as a left-back.
Surely not? Many supporters of the Red Devils believe firmly that there is no flaw in their roster’s current selection of centre-backs, but debacles like the ones against Huddersfield, Chelsea, and more recently, Burnley and Leicester, certainly seem to indicate otherwise.
The very fact that their two most potent defenders, Bailly and Jones, are often sidelined by injuries does cast dubious claims. Apart from that, the constantly shifting backline features shaky appearances by the likes of Smalling, Rojo, and Blind. A talented and firm presence is desperately required at the heart of their defense, and with De Gea in goal, a big part of their worries can be solved immediately.
A cheap and swift solution to the problem could be the recall of Jonny Evans, who from his initial days itself, showed the potential to be one of the finest in the spot. Other Premier League giants are also thought to be interested, but the 29-year-old could temporarily put a hold on their defensive woes.
But if a more long-term solution is required, and it certainly seems so, then there is undoubtedly no better man than Raphael Varane.
The Real Madrid defender has grown incredibly over the past two seasons, and the once overrated centre-back has the look of potentially becoming the best in the spot over the seasons to come. He won’t come for cheap, if at all, but will be an assuredly sound investment for the club to cash in on.
The great game has changed, and the business side of it seems to be finally dawning on the club. Gone are the days when Sir Alex Ferguson was able to swiftly transform cheap homegrown talent into legends. If a noteworthy difference is to be seen today, then it can best arrive in the form of transfers, and Manchester City’s near invincible run of games is a testament to the same.
It will now be crucial to see if the board trusts Mourinho with the insane kind of cash that will be required for nearly all of the above-mentioned signings, but if their reply is in the affirmative, then one might truly be set to witness something spectacular in the making at the Theatre of Dreams.
Written by Naveen Kelvin
A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.