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27th Dec 2017

Joey Barton has made a really good point about Jose Mourinho and Manchester United

He's not wrong

Robert Redmond

“Good to see the focus being on Man United not spending £300m on fullbacks today.”

Joey Barton has made a really good point about the reaction to the 2-2 draw between Manchester United and Burnley on Tuesday. Jose Mourinho’s team rescued a point in stoppage time thanks to Jesse Lingard’s second goal of the game. United had been trailing 2-0 at half-time, after a goal from Ashley Barnes and a stunning free-kick by Steven Defour.

However, the focus since the match ended has been on Mourinho’s post-game comments.

Mourinho bemoaned the financial resources of Manchester City in his post-match press conference, claiming that it is difficult for United to compete with a team who can “buy full-backs for the price of strikers.” He also said that the £300m United have spent on players since he became manager 18 months ago isn’t enough for the club to compete with City.

Mourinho’s quotes have since dominated the headlines, and the focus has shifted away from United’s recent performances and Burnley’s impressive display at Old Trafford. Joey Barton, who played over 50 times for Burnley in two spells at the club, brought the attention back to Sean Dyche’s side with two tweets on Wednesday morning, and he underlined the weakness of Mourinho’s complaints about financial resources.

The former Newcastle United midfielder correctly highlighted that Burnley were missing five first-team players for the match, so Mourinho can’t complain about a lack of resources, and that there has been too little focus paid to Defour’s brilliant free-kick past David de Gea.

It could also be argued that Mourinho’s claim about United’s transfer spending holding them back doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Firstly, the club have spent close to £600m on transfers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. City may have spent over £50m on Kyle Walker, but United have been very active in the transfer market in recent seasons.

Besides, as explained by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski in Why England Lose & Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained, a club’s wage bill, and not their transfer spending, is a more accurate way to predict success.

Kuper and Szymanski write:

“Clubs are always spending fortunes on the wrong transfers. Newcastle United are perhaps the most humorous example, but in fact, the amount that almost any club spends on transfer fees bears little relation to where it finishes in the league. We studied the spending of 40 English clubs between 1978 and 1997, and found that their outlay on transfers explained only 16 per cent of their total variation in league position. By contrast, their spending on salaries explained 92 per cent of that variation. In the 1998-2007 period, spending on salaries by clubs in the Premier League and Championship still explained 89 per cent of the variation in league position. It seems that high wages help a club much more than do spectacular transfers.”

The average weekly wage at United this season is £100,792. The average weekly wage at City is £100,691. It could be argued that coaching, rather than transfer spending, is why City so far ahead of United in the Premier League table, because in terms of wage bills, there’s nothing between the two clubs.