Manchester United and Real Madrid are good examples of how much you spend matters less than how you spend it.

In football, nine years is a long time, and it’s easy to forget how different things were for Manchester United and Real Madrid when Sir Alex Ferguson resigned in the summer of 2013.

Manchester United has reached the Champions League final three of the previous six years, winning it in 2008. The Red Devils had also won five of the previous seven Premier League titles under Ferguson.

Madrid, on the other hand, had not won the Champions League since 2002 – or even reached a final since then, having suffered six consecutive rounds of 16 exits between 2004 and 2010.

Jose Mourinho won La Liga in 2011-12, but Barcelona dominated Spanish football between 2008 and 2013, obtaining four league titles in five years.

United and Madrid were undoubtedly two of the most powerful clubs in the world, with United enjoying success and winning trophies, while Madrid was floundering.

Nine years have passed since United’s famous manager Ferguson stepped down, and the two great European footballing organizations could not be more dissimilar.

David Moyes took over a title-winning team, but the Red Devils dropped to seventh place in 2013-14 and haven’t had much to rejoice about since, winning just the FA Cup, League Cup, and Europa League in the last nine years, and suffering a five-year trophy drought since 2017.

In 2013, Real Madrid also changed managers. Carlo Ancelotti took over at the Bernabeu after Jose Mourinho’s final season, inheriting a squad that had failed to win any major honours in 2012-13.

During Ancelotti’s first season, Los Blancos won the Champions League for the first time in nine years (!) During that time, they’ve also captured three La Liga crowns.

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United has only won two Champions League knockout ties in the nine years since Ferguson’s retirement, failing to advance past the quarter-finals. Madrid has won 24 knockout matches in that time, winning it five times and reaching the semi-finals in seven of those nine years.

But why has there been such a huge disparity in fortunes between the two clubs after Ferguson’s departure? Both Madrid and United have changed managers and recruited big-name players to make a statement, but the two teams are poles different in terms of on-field success.

Manchester United and Real Madrid are good instances of how how much you spend matters less than how you spend it.

Is it because of the money invested? We looked at the two teams’ net spending since the summer of 2013 to discover how much they’ve invested – and, perhaps more significantly, how effective their spending has been. Transfermarkt provided all of the data.

Real Madrid

Five Biggest Purchases1) Eden Hazard – £103.50million
2) Gareth Bale – £90.90million
3) James Rodriguez – £67.50million
4) Luka Jovic – £56.70million
5) Eder Militao – £45.00million
Five Biggest Sales1) Cristiano Ronaldo – £105.30million
2) Angel Di Maria – £67.50million
3) Alvaro Morata – £59.40million
4) Mesut Ozil – £42.30million
5) Mateo Kovacic – £40.50million
Total Spent: £905.95million
Total Sold: £769.05million
Total Net Spend: £136.9million

Manchester United

Five Biggest Purchases1) Paul Pogba – £94.5million
2) Harry Maguire – £78.3million 3) Jadon Sancho – £76.5million 4) Romelu Lukaku – £76.23million
5) Angel Di Maria – £67.5million
Five Biggest Sales1) Romelu Lukaku – £66.6million
2) Angel Di Maria – £56.7million
3) Henrikh Mkhitaryan – £30.6million
4) Daniel James – £26.19million
5) Morgan Schneiderlin – £20.7million
Total Spent: £1.21billion
Total Sold: £363.47million
Total Net Spend: £854.4million