Double standards from Sir Alex Ferguson?

After a witheringly dull Manchester derby on Wednesday night, it is more interesting to discuss the off the pitch squabbles between Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini than what happened on the pitch. In the run up towards the derby, Ferguson made some comments to the press regarding the nature of City’s spending: “We know the kind of money they’re spending – they’ve bought another five or six players in the summer and they’ll keep doing that until they win something.”

He added that, “They’re up there (challenging for the title), and you can’t wait until tomorrow when there’s something there today. I’m sure they’re thinking that way themselves.” The allegation that City is buying success is hardly groundbreaking. Indeed, City fans may respond that it seems to have worked for United over the years.

It does seem a little rich to complain about City’s spending, when he has in recent years spent £30.5 million on Berbatov, £18.6 million on Carrick and £25.6 million on Wayne Rooney. Whether or not these players are worth their price tag is beside the question – the point is that Ferguson isn’t immune to a little heavy spending to help United challenge for trophies. It’s a far cry from the meagre utilitarianism of a club such as Arsenal.

Perhaps there’s a touch of bitterness regarding Ferguson’s comments. The world has changed and now Manchester United are unable to keep up with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea in the transfer market. The Glazers have the club riddled with debt and they simply don’t have the funds to compete with the big-spenders at City for a player. As a result, Ferguson seems to have turned his attention to developing youth.

United’s summer signings Javier Hernández, Bébé and Chris Smalling were acquired for £24.4 million. Contrast this with Manchester City’s summer spending of £130 million. Since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan acquired the club in 2008 City’s spending has totalled almost £350 million. Ferguson said earlier this summer that City’s owners were making a “kamikaze effort to spend their money. It is amazing the amounts of money that are being bandied about in the present day game. You may think it could be dangerous, but you think they have that kind of money and, if they have it, they are certainly using it. I don’t see it abating.”

Perhaps it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. This doesn’t mean that Ferguson is wrong. The way clubs like City spend their money is a little worrying. Clubs like United and Arsenal are being priced out the transfer market and we are faced with a future where those with wealthy owners are able scrap it out at the top of the table whilst those without money look on with envy. These kind of comments were bandied around all the time when Chelsea began to rise to prominence a few years ago. As was the case then, it’s unlikely that City and its fans will care too much about their extraneous spending if it reaps the results they desire.

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