The dust has settled on a distracting transfer window and the Premier League can kick on in earnest, until January anyway. Three game weeks into the season, most pundits are betting on the title heading into the city of Manchester, come May. It is widely expected that both United and City will dominate this season, and with good reason.
In Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, both clubs have two of the most respected and successful managers in the game, and as they embark on a second season at their respective clubs, they have had the opportunity to mould the players at their disposal in their image. And add more where needed.
Boy, have they added!
In a little more than a year, Guardiola has spent £400mn of the treasure chest made available to him at City. Mourinho hasn’t done too badly himself and has spent £286mn at United. While everyone has been talking about Neymar’s £198mn move to PSG and how that could be possible under financial fair play regulations, it is worth noting that Manchester City have spent more money on transfers this summer than anyone else. Not surprisingly, UEFA have received a letter from Javier Tebas, La Liga president, asking for it’s current investigation into whether PSG have breached FFP regulations be expanded to include City.
Mourinho has spent his money on six players, excluding Zlatan Ibrahimovich, who came in on a free. He has focused on improving the spine of his squad, with the money being splashed on centre backs, central midfielders and forwards. He has won the title in his second season wherever he has gone, and if the first few matches of this season are an indicator of how they will perform the rest of the season, Manchester United will take some stopping.
Pep has spent on, well, every position. In a year, he has even managed to buy players to replace other players he only bought last summer for big money. In goal, Ederson has replaced Willy Cabellero who replaced Claudio Bravo who in turn replaced Joe Hart. No one seems to know what City’s best eleven looks like, including Pep himself, and it will be interesting to see if he gets it right through the course of this season. For all the riches at their disposal, City have had an underwhelming start to the season.
Both managers will be under considerable pressure to deliver the title this season. Their stock was somewhat on the wane when they took up their new jobs last season. Guardiola was only a qualified success at Bayern Munich, not being able to deliver on Champions League glory during his three years there. Mourinho had just come off a terrible season at Chelsea, where it was clear that his players had stopped playing for him.
Their employers at United and City seem convinced that they are the men for the job and have backed them heavily with resources. Elsewhere, the jury seems to be out on whether they have what it takes to deliver anymore and only title success and being involved towards the latter stages of the Champions League will quieten the whispers.
And how long will the patience by owners remain when you are spending so much money? Mourinho recently became the first manager to enter the one billion pound club in transfer spend through a career. Guardiola is just another signing away from doing so, in an incredible nine years! Other managers have long mentioned that they could replicate the success either man has had if given access to the same resources.
If Mourinho does not win the title this season, it would be a first for him in a second year, and one can imagine how his critics would jump on that. If Guardiola does not win, the stories from Germany about how he wasn’t quite liked by the supporters and how Bayern Munich weren’t too sad to see him go, will resurface again. And it is arguably him who is under more pressure. Mourinho at least has an EFL Cup and Europa League win from last season to make a case. Pep has nothing yet.
This much is clear. While neither man will show it, their futures at the clubs are at stake this season. Some time during January, Guardiola will join Mourinho in the one billion pound club. For that amount of money, short term success is expected, no, demanded. The return on investments have dwindled from both in recent years. Neither has come close to winning the Champions League. A Premier League win could temporarily arrest the slide for both. But only one of them can, and come May, the other’s reputation might be in tatters. And if the title isn’t heading Manchester’s way, and it is inconceivable at this point, it might be a while before both add to their billion pound tallies.
The super managers won’t be quite super anymore. Which would be a shame, for they’ve both achieved so much during their careers. Will they then take to being one of the ranks like a lot of other great managers have in the past? Or will they characteristically fight back and challenge Zinedine Zidane, who has usurped them in the last couple of years? Only time will tell.