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Comparing Man United's spending to City's: does Mourinho have a point?

Jose Mourinho says the roughly £300 million he has spent as Manchester United manager is "not enough" to compete with Manchester City. It was a well-timed assessment, too, coming just a few minutes after his team had drawn 2-2 with Burnley at Old Trafford to drop more points in the title race. His words ensured the debate afterwards was not about United's performance against Burnley, but rather whether or not he has been given the tools to adequately challenge Pep Guardiola's runaway leaders.

Many United fans feel Mourinho has a point. His declaration that they do not currently have a "big team" befitting a club of United's size struck a chord with a lot of supporters. So too did his observation that he is still trying to rebuild United after three years of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

Mourinho vs. Guardiola

The key line from Mourinho's post-Burnley press conference was that the money he has spent on his United team is "not enough" to properly challenge City. It seems like a strange thing to say given that almost every other manager would love to have United's budget to splurge on players. Still, Mourinho is only talking about United vs. City and in that context, he is right that Guardiola has spent more.

Since taking over at the Etihad Stadium in 2016, Guardiola has spent £361.1m on 12 players. Over the same span, Mourinho has spent £286.3m on seven players. It would have been eight had he signed Ivan Perisic in the summer like he wanted.

United broke the world record when they signed Paul Pogba for £89.3m in 2016 and splashed £75m on Romelu Lukaku last summer. The rest, though, have all been around the £30m mark while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was free (at least in terms of transfer fees).

City, meanwhile, have paid between £40m and £50m for five players since Guardiola arrived. Over the same period, United have recouped £51m (primarily from the sales of Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin) while City banked £79.5m from offloading the likes of Edin Dzeko, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Bony.

Mourinho's gripe

As well as saying he has not had enough money, Mourinho also made mention of City "buying full-backs for the price of strikers," a reference to City spending £120.8m on Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo in the summer. What will annoy Mourinho most, though, is not the fees but the fact that Guardiola got what he wanted.

City initially tried to haggle with Tottenham over Walker but ended up paying £45 million -- close to the full asking price -- because Guardiola made it clear how important he would be this season. By contrast, sources have told ESPN FC that United refused to meet Inter Milan's price for Perisic. Mourinho was clear he wanted four new signings in the summer but only got three. Of those, only two (Lukaku and Nemanja Matic) have been able to go straight into the team.

Mourinho's complaints about spending may resonate in the sense that his signings just haven't been as effective.

It is not the first time this season that Mourinho has referenced money. Asked for his thoughts after a 2-0 home win over Benfica in the Champions League in October, he replied: "We score two goals we didn't concede. Three more points, which makes 12. More money for the club because every victory means money."

It seemed like an odd thing to say but the inference was that if he is doing his bit to bring money in, he should also be allowed to spend it.

The end product

City have spent more than United over the last 18 months but the numbers, £360m compared to £280m, are comparable. It's just that City's spending has had more of an impact.

The United team that started Boxing Day's 1-1 against Burnley included seven players that Mourinho inherited. Playing West Brom before Christmas, United fielded an entire back-five left behind by Sir Alex Ferguson. The City team Guardiola fielded against Tottenham the same weekend contained eight players brought in over the past three summers.

In the five years since Ferguson retired, United have spent £609.5m on 22 players. Louis van Gaal brought in 13, of which six have already left. Mourinho can at least be happy that the majority of his signings seem to have paid off.

The jury is still out on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Victor Lindelof but the rest have been successes. Mourinho will argue that he just needs more.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.


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