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18 July 2017

Dave Kidd column: Manchester clubs are vomiting money again ahead of the start of the Premier League season

IT is that time of year again.

The anticipation is breathless as faces roar in slow-motion and high-definition on TV adverts, while the Manchester clubs treat the BT and Sky cash in the manner of drunken sailors on shore leave in a knocking shop.

Romelu Lukaku has moved to Manchester United for £75m this summer
Romelu Lukaku has moved to Manchester United for £75m this summer
AP:Associated Press
Kyle Walker has moved from Tottenham to Manchester City for an eye-watering £55m
Kyle Walker has moved from Tottenham to Manchester City for an eye-watering £55m
Cavendish Press

If the pre-season hype is not quite as feverish as last summer’s Guardiola-Mourinho De Niro-Pacino blockbuster billboard bonanza, it ain’t far off.

This week’s Manchester derby in Houston, Texas, should truly whet the appetite for the big kick-off — as the two biggest Premier League net spenders of this or any other summer go toe-to-toe and the world looks on in wonderment.

Although most of the gob-smacked planet are actually simply wondering: “£55million for Kyle Walker… really?”

The size of the fee for Walker was the obvious ‘you what?’ moment of this summer.

But there are one or two instances of such financial projectile vomiting every year, and in recent times it has always been one of the Manchester clubs doing the puking.

Paul Pogba (£89m), Anthony Martial (up to £57.6m), John Stones (£47.5m), Raheem Sterling (£49m), Angel Di Maria (£59.7m), Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi (£32m apiece)…

Angel Di Maria proved a massive flop at Old Trafford under Louis van Gaal after joining United for £59.7m before being sold a year later
Angel Di Maria proved a massive flop at Old Trafford under Louis van Gaal after joining United for £59.7m before being sold a year later
PA:Press Association
Raheem Sterling has still not hit the heights he had at Liverpool since joining Manchester City in 2015
Raheem Sterling has still not hit the heights he had at Liverpool since joining Manchester City in 2015
EPA

To the seasoned observer of this wall-splattering summer ritual, the Walker deal is simply the continuation of a trend.

A trend which leaves City top of the transfer-window standings, United second, way ahead of anyone else and Tottenham rock-bottom with a healthy profit — just like the Premier League’s cumulative net-spend table over the past five years.

And any keen-eyed observers who noticed that Spurs finished above both Manchester clubs in the actual Premier League table for the past two seasons, had better stay quiet at a time of year when men in suits are routinely applauded for the fact that their trouser pockets seem to have caught fire.

There may well be petty squabbling between United and City fans as to whose spending is the more desperate.

Paul Pogba cost Manchester United a world record £89m last summer from Juventus
Paul Pogba cost Manchester United a world record £89m last summer from Juventus
Reuters
Jose Mourinho has spent big money in the last two summers including the transfers of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku
Jose Mourinho has spent big money in the last two summers including the transfers of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku
AP:Associated Press
Pep Guardiola has not been shy of spending money at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has not been shy of spending money at Manchester City
Sportsfile


But to the rest of the nation, and the footballing world, United and City are as bad as one another —  an unholy alliance making a laughing stock of the English game by spending air hangar-loads of cash for little apparent return.

Financial logic — if there is such a thing in English football — dictates that United and City ought to be the Premier League top two next season, even though the duo have finished an average of 15.67 points off the top over the past three years. For United alone, in the four-year post-Ferguson era, that figure is 19.5 points.

Yet the Manchester clubs have also made signings which, in context — admittedly a context of complete lunacy —  do not yet look terrible  value-for-money, such as United’s £75m for Romelu Lukaku and City’s £43m for Bernardo Silva.

Abassador role suits Roo

HOW generous of Manchester United to offer an ambassadorial role to record goalscorer Wayne Rooney after he retires.

Only a cynic would suggest that such roles are effectively ‘hush money’ doled out by clubs who want to keep high- profile former players on-side rather than risking them offering fair criticism in the media.

And, luckily, the height of a warm and glorious summer is no time for cynicism.

Meanwhile, the London clubs who dominated the last English domestic season do not seem obvious title candidates now.

Champions Chelsea are beset by ‘palpable discord’ again, runners-up Tottenham’s move to Wembley should cost them a dozen points at least, while FA Cup winners Arsenal are still fundamentally, well, Arsenal.

Yet most of us predicted a Manchester one-two last season and were proved horribly wrong.

One chief problem is that the boards of both clubs were so desperate last summer that they recruited managers they are genuinely scared of.

The jitters inside the Etihad if there’s the slightest suggestion that Saint Pep might not be around for the long haul tends to register on the Richter Scale.

Antonio Rudiger is Chelsea's only outfield signing of the summer so far
Antonio Rudiger is Chelsea’s only outfield signing of the summer so far
PA:Press Association
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is yet to make a significant signing this summer
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is yet to make a significant signing this summer
Rex Features
John Stones had a rough season under Pep Guardiola
John Stones had a rough season under Pep Guardiola
News Group Newspapers Ltd

Meanwhile United’s suits botched the immediate post-Fergie years so badly that moving for Mourinho — a man utterly removed from their prevailing philosophies of attacking football and promoting youth — became a compulsion.

Yet the fact that Guardiola and Mourinho have their respective employers over a barrel only adds to the over-arching reality.

That if neither man can stage a decent title challenge again this year after the money which has been lavished upon them, it will represent a monumental failure of coaching and management.


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