Were Sir Alex’s comments a bit rich, considering his own situation?

“Over the last two or three years we have seen very wealthy owners become part of football clubs and therefore go on this kamikaze effort to spend their money. Some people may think it could be dangerous, and I don’t see it abating. The kind of spending we are seeing at the moment will be here for two or three years, until such time as they understand you can’t necessarily achieve all the time by spending.”

This is the, no doubt very recognisable, view of Sir Alex Ferguson’s stance on Manchester City’s spending since the arrival of their millionaire owners. Ferguson is in a position to criticise because he the manager of one of the biggest clubs in world football, but that same position has allowed him to spend a vast amount of money also. Maybe Ferguson hasn’t spent with the same excess as Man City have done recently, or Chelsea in their early Abramovich years, but before those owners bought into the Premier League, Manchester United were the richest, and for some time.

The comments that were made by Ferguson were simply to goad his local rivals. There is a common thought that it will take some time for Man City to build a coherent team, there is frightening potential to do it, but the process needs to develop. With Fergie heaping on pressure with terms like ‘kamikaze’ and ‘dangerous’ it is simply to add to the pressure on City and Mancini.

While never quite in the same league of Man City spending, let us be realistic and remember that it is very rare that Man United can’t compete to buy players. When Fergie wants a player, he usually gets him. It has been done before, but not many people turn down United. As a club, their academy is famous and I won’t insult you by listing the players we know they have churned out over the last twenty years, but they have also been littered, and still are, with very expensive purchases: Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron carried heft price tags. Ferdinand, Van Nistelrooy and Veron were all British transfer records when United signed them, as were Andy Cole, Roy Keane and Gary Pallister when they signed for the club.

The obvious difference in the two scenarios is that Manchester City have done their buying all in a very short period of time, whereas United have done those over the entire Premiership era (with the exception of Van Nistelrooy and Veron who arrived in the same summer). The sheer lavishness of City’s spending is what Fergie was alluding to in his comments, but it does have a faint whiff of hypocrisy about it; few managers can spend over £7m on a player they have never seen before in the way that Fergie has just done. Fergie has had enormous sums of money available to him during his time at United and is rarely priced out of a deal. Man City’s spending is only kamikaze if they can’t sustain it; they might follow Chelsea’s example in an initial hefty outlay, followed by a tightening of the purse strings. Chelsea have now established themselves as a European heavyweight as a result of their policy. For years, Man Utd had their pick of any players, based on their wealth in relation to other clubs, that may now have changed, but they cannot criticise the spending that they have been a part of.

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