Monday 16 July 2018

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Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez both wave the white flag to Pep Guardiola - but who can blame them?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and United boss Jose Mourinho set to clash again on Saturday
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and United boss Jose Mourinho set to clash again on Saturday

Martin Hardy

Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benítez have won seven European trophies and 10 domestic league titles between them.

In the space of four days, both hugely decorated managers in the modern game have been assumed to have waved the footballing white flag at Manchester City.

On Saturday, Mourinho warned that Manchester United, armed with £300 million since he arrived at Old Trafford, could not compete with the financial might of City.

On Wednesday night, footballing pundits could not hide their fury as Benitez took defending deep to perhaps a new extreme. Certainly the opening 45 minutes were a cultural shock, not just for those at St James' Park, but for those commenting upon the game.

Jamie Carragher gave a half-time verdict that was absolutely damning.

"It's becoming embarrassing," he said. "It's not just Newcastle but the Premier League in general, when they come up against the top six, certainly at home, and it's becoming where the Premier League is a bit of a joke league.

"The teams at the top six are so far ahead that the teams at the bottom, it's like they're accepting they're going to lose the game, as long as it's only one or two nil, and not going to have a go.

The Premier League over the years has been built on every team having a go. That's why every one around the world wants to watch it. Will they continue watching it if we keep seeing football like that?"

By the game's close, Newcastle had rallied and came close to an equaliser. In narrow defeat Benitez was unashamed.

"You just have to look at what happened when they played against Tottenham, Bournemouth or Swansea," he said. "We were in the game right until the end, it was very close. We needed to do things this way. We knew we had to stick together to have a chance at the end."

Wednesday night's game was only the second time in the run of 18 successive Premier League victories that Manchester City have failed to score more than one goal. The other was also a one-nil win, at Chelsea in September.

Read more here:

The record Guardiola and City sit 90 minutes away from equalling – the most consecutive victories in one of Europe's top five divisions – was set on March 25 in 2014 when Bayern Munich – then managed by Guardiola – won three-one at Hertha BSC.

Bayern scored at least two goals in every game on that run, and conceded just ten times on the way. Victory at Hertha gave them the Bundesliga title, with two months still to play. The possession of Hertha was just 18 per cent (to Newcastle's final total of 22%). Hertha had four shots to Newcastle's six and just one on target to Newcastle's two. Guardiola at least has faced teams with less ability or desire to go toe to tow with his all stars.

That season Bayern Munich's turnover reached £487.5 million. Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04, who finished second and third respectively in the 2013/14 Bundesliga table, had a combined turnover of £476 million. Manchester City's accounts for 2016/17 give at least a reason as to Mourinho's apprehension, with City's wage bill jumping 37 per cent in the first year under Guardiola.

It moved it to Manchester United's level, but the growth rate was eye catching. City are gaining the upper hand quickly. Their accounts showed a spend of around £221 million on incoming players whilst they received around £90 million from sales.

The Premier League currently receives £1.07 billion per year from all overseas deals combined. Two months ago the so called big six were blocked in their attempts to gain a bigger share of that market, which is expected to increase dramatically.The Premier League had suggested changing the 25 year model of equal distribution so that 35 per cent of this money would be distributed according to league position.

This needed 14 clubs to agree and that did not happen. It has not dampened the desire of those at the league's summit to make more from this growing revenue stream. They are expected to try again. The gap is likely to get bigger.

It was interesting in the embers of Newcastle's defeat to note that their supporters were perhaps the least offended by their side's tactics. Newcastle are newly promoted. Their wage bill will probably flirt around £90 million for the 2017/18 season. They spent around £40 million on transfers in the summer and the starting eleven that lost to City cost less than £50 million. The outrage was not on Tyneside.

The wider concern seemed to be in football, and specifically those watching on television, ironically the source of the widening financial chasm.

Independent News Service

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