Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday launched his most outspoken attack yet on wealthy club owners when he accused them of "kamikaze" spending on the same day that Manchester City prepared to take their outlay for the summer past the £130m mark with the arrival of James Milner.
Ferguson did not refer to City by name but the implication was clear when he warned that inflated prices were "dangerous" and that clubs will come to understand that "you can't necessarily achieve all the time by spending".
Yesterday, City presented their latest signing, Mario Balotelli, the 20-year-old striker from Internazionale who cost £23m. They expect Milner to arrive for his medical from Aston Villa this morning at the latest for a deal worth £24m, £8m of which is represented by Stephen Ireland going to Villa Park. It will take Sheikh Mansour's spending on transfers alone past £300m in the space of two years.
By contrast, Ferguson yesterday presided over the presentation of Manchester United's three relatively modest summer additions, Javier Hernandez, Chris Smalling and Bebe – who cost around £25m in total. Having been beaten by Real Madrid to Karim Benzema last summer United again lost out to them yesterday when Madrid signed the Germany international Mesut Ozil from Werder Bremen for £12m.
Ferguson said: "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. 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. I think 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," he forecast.
With the part of the Glazer debt serviced by United's profits standing at around £716.5m, Ferguson does leave himself open to the argument that the kamikaze spenders are no less dangerous than those, like United'sAmerican owners, who borrow against the value of their clubs.
The United manager has argued all summer that there is no "value" in the current transfer market and he will pursue the club's policy of buying young, unproven talent to complement the experienced core of players in his squad. Yesterday he conceded that there would have to come a time when United would re-enter the market for the most experienced players.
Ferguson said: "By getting younger players now they are given time. They can develop at the club and be the players we want them to be. There will be an occasion when we change our policy in the sense of bringing in more experienced players at some other times.
"We could have bought one or two players for a lot of money in the summer but I didn't necessarily see that they were going to make much difference to us or rather make the difference that makes us really so much better."
In a busy day at City yesterday, Ferguson's opposite number Roberto Mancini said that Shay Given could leave the club after being demoted to second-choice goalkeeper behind Joe Hart. "I want all our good players to stay but for goalkeepers it is probably different," he said. "I hope he [Given] can stay with us. He is a very strong player but I will respect the decision he makes if he wants to go."
The club also offloaded the striker Craig Bellamy on a season-long loan to Cardiff City, a surprise move that demonstrated their complete unwillingness to sell him to any club that might remotely challenge them in the Premier League. Bellamy has long been identified as militantly anti-Mancini but yesterday he showed no public animosity towards the Italian.
Mancini will not take Milner to Romania for the Europa League tie against FC Timisoara tomorrow night – the City squad leave early this morning for the game. Balotelli will be in the Europa League squad having taken the place of Roque Santa Cruz, who is on his way out of City this month.
City have also agreed the severance fee for Ireland which was holding up the Milner transfer. Ireland is thought to have been paid £1m relating to fees owed over his contract rather than the £2m which the player was holding out for.
City vs United: Who's winning the money games?
Owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his Abu Dhabi United group, who paid £210m for the club in September 2008. He has since reduced the club's estimated £300m debt by turning his loans to the club into equity, in a similar way to that of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.
£32.5m Robinho, from Real Madrid, Aug 2008
£30m Yaya Touré, from Barcelona, July 2009
£25m Emmanuel Adebayor, from Arsenal, July 2009
£25m Carlos Tevez, MSI group, July 2009
£23m David Silva, from Valencia, June 2009
Highest summer spending
Yaya Touré, £200,000 per week
Shaun Wright-Phillips, £21m to Chelsea, July 2005
Owned by the Glazer family, who paid £790m to buy the club in May 2005. Debt levels were estimated at £716.5m in January this year. Refinanced the debts through a bond issue worth £500m this year. The club have to pay £233,000 a day just to service their debts.
£30.75m Dimitar Berbatov, from Spurs, August 2008
£30m Rio Ferdinand, from Leeds, July 2002
£28.1m Juan S Veron, from Lazio, July 2001
£24m Wayne Rooney, from Everton, August 2004
£18.6m Michael Carrick, from Spurs, July 2006
Highest summer spending
Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, £120,000 per week
Cristiano Ronaldo, £80m to Real Madrid, July 2009
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