Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United's decision to complete their transfer business in the first month of the summer transfer window was a stroke of genius as he feels the valuation of the players took a turn for the worse following Neymar's world-record €222m (£198m) move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Apart from re-signing free agent Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a new one-year contract the Red Devils conclude their transfer business on 31 July with the capture of Nemanja Matic. The Serbian was the last of United's new additions following the signing of Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku earlier in the summer.
The 20-time English champions paid Everton a fee of around £75m ($97.7m) to sign the Belgian forward, while they paid Chelsea around £40m to sign Matic. Mourinho is confident that the cost would have been almost doubled had they waited until later in the transfer window to complete their transfer business.
The Portuguese manager believes United would have spent close to an extra £85m at least if they had signed Lukaku and Matic after Neymar's deal from Barcelona to PSG was concluded. It is a well used practice for clubs to wait until the final days to complete their major business in order to have an upper hand in the negotiations, but the market inflation this time around ensured that teams paid premium prices in the end rather than the start of the transfer market.
"I think we were very clever," Mourinho said in a wide-ranging interview with The Times. "We thought that something could happen that could change the market forever. Normally the last part of the market is less expensive, but this season, after Neymar [left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record £199 million deal], everything changed — and changed for the worse in terms of prices."
"I think Lukaku on August 31 would have been £150 million. Matic would have been £60 million or £70 million. Neymar changed everything. If the biggest transfer in history had still been Pogba, I think Philippe Coutinho [the Liverpool playmaker] would now be in Barcelona at £101 million," the Portuguese coach explained.
"People look to the £200 million figure now. Now the players of £20 million became £40 million, the players of £40 million became £60 million and everything changed. Lukaku and Matic, now, would have cost us £200 million in total. But because we did it in the first part of the summer, it was much less. I think we did well in financial terms and well in preparation terms, getting them before the season started. That is not crucial but it is important."
'Title race and building a successful team'
United's decision to bring in the players before the start of the Premier League campaign has paid dividends as most of the new players have settled in well and hit the ground running. Lukaku has scored three goals in as many appearances, while Matic has impressed in his first three games as well as the Red Devils sit on top of the league table – two points clear of the rest of the field.
Mourinho has indicated that his team will fight for the title this season, but maintained that he still does not have a team at his disposal that he desires. The manager revealed that he will need at least three summer transfer windows before he can build a team capable of returning to the top of English football and closing the gap on European big wigs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
However, he has challenged his current team to begin the process of getting United back to challenging for the domestic title while also making a mark in Europe.
"We're going to fight against very good teams, but we're going to try. I have said three [summer] transfer windows is what I need to have the team I want to have, the team I think can bring Manchester United to the top of English football and to close the gap to the top of European football again, and I still think we need that third transfer window, but I'm not going to wait for the third transfer window to try to reach it," Mourinho added.
"Again, I like to accelerate. I don't like to sleep on a slow watch, a slow timing, and let it go. I like to chase. I don't like to wait."