Juan Mata: Missing piece or missing the point?

What initially began as a wild rumour in the summer involving a potential swap for Wayne Rooney has escalated into the most significant transfer story of the January transfer window. The story is being carried almost everywhere; Manchester United are willing to break their transfer record in an attempt to land unsettled and out-of-favour Juan Mata from Chelsea before the month is out. The feeling of shock from United fans worldwide is palpable, if not initially for the price quoted then from the notion that David Moyes and Ed Woodward, so maligned after last summer’s business (or lack thereof) are potentially on the verge of such a huge coup.

Of course, the Spaniard’s mooted move hasn’t pleased everyone, with the very real need to upgrade midfield and left-back understandably taking precedent in the minds of many before any sort of addition to our attacking options takes place. Mutterings of a move Southampton’s Luke Shaw or a rekindling of last summer’s botched deal for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao have surfaced, but gathered little pace with two thirds of the window gone and with Patrice Evra struggling defensively this season. In midfield, there’s been talk of an unlikely yet sensational return for Paul Pogba from Juventus, and rumours of a return to Spain to finally prise Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao have never competely died down, but yet again, nothing concrete. This season alone, fans can point to Michael Carrick’s waning influence, Tom Cleverley’s ineffectiveness and Darren Fletcher’s return from illness as reasons to strengthen a limited central midfield before a vanity purchase, and such a potentially expensive one, is made. It’s worth noting that United would also be chucking an excess of £15m onto the transfer fee Chelsea originally paid to Valencia in exchange for a player that they’ve deemed surplus to requirements.

why manchester united should of done more to keep paul pogba

And of course, United have at least three options in the number 10 role at present in the shape of Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Shinji Kagawa. Gary Neville has already pointed out that including Mata alongside sure-fire starters like Rooney and Robin Van Persie will require a whole new tactical approach, and means essentially dumping wingers from the equation in order to maintain a reasonable balance between attack and protection for a faltering defence.

But that, of course, tells roughly half of the story. After a summer spent eyeing up the unrealistic likes of Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, the opportunity to not only sign a player of Mata’s calibre but to reach such an advanced stage in the transfer process is a huge boost to what has been a poor first season post Sir Alex Ferguson. As much and often as Moyes and the club have spouted the rhetoric of United’s stature and heritage providing sufficient impetus for the world’s best players to sign, the simple fact is that without Champions League football and with a squad in need of an overhaul, getting those players would have become intensely difficult. Mata’s quality, desire, toughness and sheer talent are an immediate boost to the club; he comes ready-made for life in the Premier League and having spent much of this season on Chelsea’s bench, he would surely be willing and ready to kick-start United’s drive for a top four finish.

Neville’s right, of course; his inclusion would potentially mean abandoning wide players for the sake of squad balance. But then again, of our four most utilised wingers this season, the only one demanding to be chosen for each game is an 18-year-old who hadn’t even played for the first team this time last year. And Januzaj is malleable and effective enough to play elsewhere. Yes, choosing Mata would potentially put a few players out of joint and marginalise the likes of Shinji Kagawa, but the Japanese, and a number of wingers, are hardly presenting a sparkling case for regular inclusion as it is.

david-moyes-watching

Rumours of dressing room unrest, especially during a period as potentially toxic as this have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but much like Robin Van Persie’s transfer in 2012, there’s nothing to suggest that Mata’s purchase will have anything other than a positive effect on the side (and if those rumours are true, then it certainly can’t do any further harm). It’s always worth noting that for his faults and mistakes, Moyes hasn’t had it easy since his arrival; a purchase on this scale will reinvigorate the entire club from top to bottom, and could well provide the impetus to reach the summer’s upcoming rebuild with Champions League football to look forward to. And, having seen Rooney spend the summer unsettled and desiring a transfer, failing to prepare for his potential exit, whenever that may be, could be intensely damaging.

In a lot of ways, it’s a transfer that benefits all parties. From Chelsea’s perspective, they recoup the initial fee paid to Valencia and a hell of a lot more on top, replace a player that manager Jose Mourinho clearly didn’t fancy, ease the pressures of adhering to Financial Fair Play and strengthen a team that still has to play the two teams placed immediately above them. From the player’s perspective, it’s a guarantee of more game time in a World Cup year and a chance to shine in a team that has been stuttering almost all season. Last, but by no means least, this could be a huge coup for Moyes. Not only that, but it’s proof of the club’s clout in the transfer market and, most importantly, a massive boost to a frustrating season. Of course, it might not be the purchase everyone wanted, and the issue of being cup-tied in Europe is far from ideal, but after such an intensely uncomfortable season thus far, getting Mata’s signature is an opportunity that United should not, perhaps cannot, pass up.

14 Comments

  1. Yes, signing Mata would mean going against the “traditional way” like how Gary put it, but the traditional way isn’t working, is it? How many pin point crosses has Valencia delivered this season? Moyes, I think tried to stick to this tradition by passing up the opportunity to sign Ozil, but after 7 months, he knows he needs to alter the play. Yes, central midfield and left back is our priority but as you mentioned, signing Mata would boost morale and finally give Moyes and Woodward the marquee signing they were looking for all summer.

  2. I said if mata cost us more than 40 million then forget him. Why wasting so much money. Put the money in m.reus or gundegon

  3. I said if mata cost us more than 40 million then forget him. Why wasting so much money. Put the money in m.reus or gundegon or cabaye or in everton barkley

  4. This signing is good for two reasons, rejuvenate a tired team and a natural replacement for Wayne when he inevitably leaves us in the summer!

  5. Mata is a quality player and in truth these types of players are not always available when you want them. I think it would be a good signing and might actually help us get up to fourth place, which if it did, would have positive spinoffs for summer signings and cash availability. If Rooney is going to get on his bike after the World Cup, then getting Mata now has to be good forward planning.

    The argument about changing the style is fair up to a point, but our current wide players are average at best, except obviously for Januzaj, and he could fulfil several roles. Valencia, Young and Nani are not the future of United. Of course, there is winger Zaha but he never plays anyway.

    I don’t care too much about transfer fees these days; it’s not my money. I care about the quality of the player more than if the transfer fee is ‘value for money’. For example, is Fellaini of the quality required at United, regardless of the fee? Questionable.

    Signing Mata would be a great morale boost, appreciated by many, not least of all, me.

  6. We may already have good players that play in his position but I can’t see his
    signing as anything short of positive. I hope after his signing David Moyes can
    reduce the wing play and focus more on attacking through the middle

  7. when utd where ate there best, we had wing play and attack through the middle… the reason we are failing so badly is simple…. the middle is too defensive!!

    look at against sunderland, every time the ball moves out wide the only time we looked threatening was when kagawa shifted into the middle.

    fletcher is better at the deeper role and moving forward occassioanlly.. carrick this season is good at doing nothing… and i dare you to prove me wrong by giving one actual moment in this game where he did something great… because i have nooooooo idea!!

    i will say it again… forget calling kagawa the no 10 role… thats rubbish…. look at how he plays and moves the ball… he is our new no 18!!! he is our next scholes!!! he controls the middle of the pitch adn can split the defence easily!

    i say we go all out attack and have janujaz and valencia on wings, with mata and kagawa in the middle.

    why because the defence can actually defend…. but once a tackle is made the ball is straight back at them again because there is no attacking threat accross the whole width of the midfield. the tops teams have players along the whole midfield that carry attacking threat… carrick has no attacking threat except against de gea…. and fletcher just needs more time to regain full fitness… i see some important roles from him next season!!!

    i say stop thinking so defensively… because that is what is costing us… offence is the best defence…

    to win a game we gotta score lots…. no try to hold 1-0… hell at the moment were struggling just to get 1!!!

  8. Mata is no panic buy, he is the missing link. Moyes have seen what we have tried to tell SAF for years, Young and Valencia are not good enough to play for this club. He already have the future solution on the right in Adnan Januzay, to replace Young he does not go for an Bellion or Zaha who might get good, he goes for one of the best in the world, a proven PL-player who can play in any position behind the striker. Both Januzaj and Mata cuts in, like he played with Everton, and the 2 FB’s attack wide, Rafael can do this, and it’s obvious that Moyes are looking for a new LB. That leaves us with Januzaj-Rooney-Mata behind RvP in attack, that line-up will give any team trouble.

  9. NO Rooney should leave united. He is unique. He can do everything in a match defence, playing central midfield or left right winger or behind striker. He is all rounder and having such player we are blessed.

  10. I said leave the old fashion football depending on winger. Moyes should change it we got create player now with mata,kagawa,rooney we should go with 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2.

  11. I remember barcelone onces a time he used to played with his winger like ronaldinho,guily and new starter messi. The they changed its and used 4-3-3. They got great midfielder and great attacker result they are best team

  12. I got a tactics now rooney and rvp injured. I go with 4-2-1-3.
    Degea
    rafa,jones,evans,evra
    carrick,fletcher
    kagawa
    mata,chicharito,januzaj.

  13. I choose chicharito not welbeck becoz chicharito is scoring and welbeck not. To reward him. Now tell is moyes being fair with him. He was gave his preference to welbeck he score or not he played him.

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