Man Utd boss Jose Mourinho can find inspiration in Sir Alex Ferguson as he looks to close the gap on Manchester City.
Condemned to second place after a disappointing result against a side rooted to the bottom. A premature exit in the Champions League. Seemingly little hope of ever catching a runaway leader with unlimited resources. Fears their manager is yesterday’s man after another year without a title.
There are a lot of similarities between the predicament Jose Mourinho currently finds himself in with City to what Sir Alex Ferguson experienced when the Portuguese was leading Chelsea to their second successive title in 2006.
After a desperate 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland on April 14, United were left six points behind leaders Chelsea, who had a game in hand with just five matches left. They duly beat Bolton to retain the title for the first time in their history.
It seemed there was no stopping them. After spending £130m in Mourinho’s first two seasons in charge, Chelsea announced the signings of Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko before May was even out.
That, coupled with Mourinho’s genius, appeared an unstoppable combination but Ferguson rallied – without even matching the outlay of the big-spending champions.
Ferguson eventually saw off the threat of Mourinho’s Chelsea
Ferguson may not have had the spending power of Roman Abramovich, but he also made some key additions – Michael Carrick, Carlos Tevez, Owen Hargreaves, Anderson, Nani and Dimitar Berbatov among them – before Glazernomics really took hold in 2009.
Just as Ferguson could not outspend Mourinho when he was at Chelsea, Mourinho will not be able to match Guardiola’s outlay. Also, unlike in 2012, when he got the better of Guardiola at Real Madrid, he does not have Cristiano Ronaldo to help him out.
Mourinho’s goal this summer will be instead to sign three or four more functional players who will not necessarily sell millions of shirts in their own right but will help elevate the team, as a whole. He has already said as much.
“We are not going to spend more than we can. We are not going to do anything crazy,” he said before that defeat.”We are just trying to improve a little bit more. That’s what we are going to try.
“Everybody will try to improve – like we did from last season. Last season we finished sixth and this season we are going to finish, hopefully, second.
United will not be targeting more forwards this summer
“Next season, we are going to try to improve, but let’s see what happens. Maybe also City will invest massively and they don’t let the others close the gap to them, I don’t know.
“But it is not about us and them, it is about us and them and Liverpool and Arsenal and Chelsea and Spurs. It is not City and United. It is about the six.”
There is a reason why Mourinho does not want to sign another forward – because he knows he can get even more out of Alexis Sanchez et al once August comes round.
The reality is, though, that a blistering start to next season might not even be enough after another successful pre-season at the UCLA. United won six of their opening eight league games, drawing the other two, and they still found themselves behind City in September.
It is going to take something really special to overtake them.