Jose Mourinho knows how to twist the knife, that much has been proven over the years. So it was little surprise that he took the opportunity of Everton’s recent slump to pile yet more misery on a team that would go on to suffer a humbling 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday.
“We are up against a team that has spent £140m. Obviously we are playing a team that wants to at least secure a top-four position,” the Manchester United boss wrote in his programme notes, underlining just how badly Ronald Koeman is currently underachieving as manager of the Toffees. It was a classic Mourinho move, creating aggravation where there didn’t need to be any.
Koeman hit back after the match, telling Mourinho to “get realistic” over his expectations of Everton. “I read the United programme and my colleague told me about Everton spending £140m and so they need to go for the top four,” the Dutchman said. “If there’s anybody in this room and outside and sees this as something realistic for us, please comment. Be realistic. I’m not happy how we started the season, but please be a bit realistic about Everton. We need time, but it’s difficult in football.”
READ MORE: Fresh Hazard to Real rumours emerge
READ MORE: Rio Ferdinand to become professional boxer
READ MORE: Man United asked to ban Lukaku song
It’s understandable that Koeman should react in such a defensive manner having watched his side suffer such a heavy, albeit somewhat undeserved, defeat. But Mourinho is right. Everton should be targeting a top four place this season. If Koeman believes that to be an unrealistic aim, then he might not be the right man for the job.
Everton spent over £140 million in the summer, with only the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea spending more in the Premier League. That outlay was offset against the loss of Romelu Lukaku, but nonetheless, the Goodison Park club put a marker down over the summer transfer market. It was an illustration of their ambition under still relatively new owner Farhad Moshiri.
So what was the point of spending all that money if the aim isn’t to enter the next tier above? Keep in mind that Everton finished seventh in the Premier League table last season. There isn’t much space above for them to target before they reach the top four. So why is Koeman reluctant to underline how breaking into the Champions League places is the target for his club? Did Everton really spend over £140 million just to tread water?
Perhaps it’s only just dawning on Koeman how unbalanced his side is, even after their summer spree. The failure to truly replace Lukaku looks like it could undermine their whole season. What’s more, the quality of their signings are being questioned. Big money doesn’t always mean big quality and Everton are becoming a case study in that assertion. How many of the players signed by Everton over the summer would get into the Liverpool team, for instance? Jordan Pickford might stand a chance, but that’s it.
Ronald Koeman on José Mourinho: "My colleague talked spending £140m and that we need to go for the top four. Be realistic." pic.twitter.com/PqbCeTwHLV
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 18, 2017
With every passing game, Koeman’s Everton look more and more like Thaksin Shinawatra’s Manchester City. They too spent big money, but failed to make the breakthrough into the top four. It wasn’t until Sheikh Mansour arrived on the scene, raising the transfer market stakes once again, that City became the Premier League force they are today.
READ MORE: Hazard takes swipe at Mourinho
READ MORE: Leicester handing new deal to Gray
It’s true that Everton should be targeting a top four finish given the money they have spent, vindicating Mourinho in his programme notes, but given what we now know about the players who pitched up at Goodison Park over the summer, Koeman is perhaps similarly right to call such an expectation unrealistic. That’s different from saying it should be unrealistic, though.