Sorry, Mourinho, Guardiola hasn't just bought good players, he's made them better

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The Portuguese crying 'poor mouth' is somewhat farcical given the fact that the Red Devils have not been shy about opening the cheque book

Jose Mourinho’s reaction to Manchester City steaming away to win the Premier League title has been predictable.

He wants more signings; he is demanding Manchester United and the executive vice-chairman Edward Woodward spend more money to compete.

"We are in the second year of trying to rebuild a football team you know is not one of the best teams in the world," he argued on December 26. 

"Manchester City buy full-backs for the price of the strikers, so when you speak about big football clubs, you are speaking about the history of the club." 

Jose Mourinho Man City PS

His lamentation suggests that Mourinho believes his team - and not Pep Guardiola’s - might be top of the league if the spending patterns were switched.

It is a convenient narrative but one which falls down at the slightest examination. One of the world’s richest football clubs crying poor mouth is farcical. 

Mourinho has been spending. He has spent around £300 million in less than two years at Old Trafford. He has gone to the market and brought back Paul Pogba for a world record sum of £89m. He paid £75m a year later for Romelu Lukaku. In all, he has paid more than £30m for six different United players.

Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arrived alongside Pogba followed by the free transfer Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the summer of 2016.

Manchester United Mourinho Signings PS

Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic were added to the squad ahead of the 2016-17 season. These are his signings and if he is unhappy with them then he’s got no one else to blame. You bought them, Jose, now coach them!

In any case, no one thought that Manchester City were paying market value when Kyle Walker came in over the summer for £50m. The perception was that Daniel Levy had done the trick again and taken in far more than the player was worth. He was not a £50m full-back then but he is one now. That is Guardiola's doing.

There was widespread bemusement when Guardiola went in for Everton’s John Stones for a similar sum. It is acknowledged that City were being forced to pay over the odds for their signings because selling clubs knew that they had the money to give. Guardiola, though, has made his signings work.

Fernandinho, Pep Guardiola

His club may have paid massive money for the likes of Stones, Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Leroy Sane but Guardiola has made sure they get value out of those signings. Little has been wasted even if Bernardo Silva could perhaps give more.

Look at the discrepancy between the performances of Ilkay Gundogan and Mkhitaryan for example - both starters at Borussia Dortmund before their 2016 transfers where Mkhitaryan was by far the more dynamic player. 

Guardiola brought in players with the talent and the adaptability to give him what he needs. He has coached them into the exact unit he wants. Sometimes it appears that Mourinho expects his players to figure it out for themselves.

The evidence is borne out time and again. He can drill a back four expertly and make sure few gaps materialise. If it’s lockdown you’re looking for, then Mourinho can give it to you.

Beyond that, though, and he requires innovation from his ranks. As certain modest Premier League teams have shown in recent weeks, if you can make a decent job of repelling their attacks, then there is a very good chance of getting a good result against United.

Manchester City Guardiola Signings PS

He admitted last season that he likes his players to come up with their own attacking solutions; he equips teams with the bedrock of a solid defence then they are asked to solve their own problems. That is perhaps the reason why the likes of Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata are wavering. 

In this respect, he could not differ any more from Guardiola. A few viewings of City will ensure you can see where runners are expected to appear and what exactly should be done to construct an attack from any moment of possession.

The difference between Mourinho and Guardiola is that the former expects his attackers to be good but the latter shows them how to be good. There have been significant improvements in the performances of Kevin De Bruyne – a player Mourinho cast aside – and his midfield partner David Silva. Sane and, most startlingly, Raheem Sterling have taken momentous strides under Guardiola.

Out of United’s attackers it would be a stretch to say any of them have ameliorated their level since Mourinho arrived. Jesse Lingard is maybe the only exception.

Jesse Lingard Manchester United Everton

But that’s never been Mourinho’s strength. At his Manchester United unveiling, he infamously listed 49 players to whom, he claimed, he gave a professional debut. Some of it was true, some of it was fake news.

It was, however, designed with the intention of demonstrating his commitment to putting in, trusting and guiding young talents. That is important at a club like United and he wanted to get out in front of the story before anyone could say otherwise.

But the key component of Mourinho’s career has not been player development. He clearly prefers ready-made stars that he can mould psychologically into a Mourinho battalion. Inter – who won the Champions League in 2010 with a core of veterans – provide the best example of that.

It was that mindset which led him to sign Zlatan when he had Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial already on the books at Old Trafford. It’s why he prefers Ashley Young to Luke Shaw, by and large, at left-back.

Talent-wise, there is not a lot to choose between Rashford and Martial and their City counterparts Sterling and Sane but there is no question which duo is getting the clearer instruction. That is borne out in the consistency and fluency of their performances.

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Here is where Mourinho has been left behind. Once upon a time it was enough to sign players and be confident - that once they were psychologically the right fit - they could carry out any of his objectives.

Guardiola has shown that, yes, money is required to get the most suitable players into a club but it’s not enough for success in its own right. What comes next is vital; giving them instruction, cohesion and a sense of collective purpose is just as important as opening the cheque book.

And that will never cease being true no matter if Jose spends another £300m, £400m or £500m. 

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