January 24, 2014

Mata’s move to Manchester raises eyebrows, questions

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

For once in this bleak season, there was actually some cause for celebration at Old Trafford this week with the news that slacking Red Devils have nearly completed a move for Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata.

While the move should breathe new life into a below-average midfield that really lacked a creative influence at times, it also should see the fans rally around something that isn’t a chant about sacking under-fire manager David Moyes.

But while the move will be hailed by many fans as a win for United, it does raise a lot of questions.

First, where will Mata play for United? In the team’s current setup – when everyone’s healthy – Wayne Rooney occupies the role sitting just behind Robin van Persie in attack. That’s pretty much where Mata does his best business, as he wasn’t as reliable when shunted out onto a wing.

If you were to play him deeper in a central role, he’s not a good enough defender to track back and take of business there

So could this mean that Rooney will finally find his way out of Manchester after years of rumours saying as much? An interesting deal would have Chelsea getting the first right to bid on the English bulldog, giving the Blues the forward they so crave.

Rooney heading to Stamford Bridge this summer would be a major coup, especially considering Radamel Falcao’s torn ACL this week.

The cynical point of view is that Chelsea is taking pity on United, especially after demolishing it 3-1 on Saturday. Matters only got worse on Wednesday when the Red Devils lost one of the worst penalty shootouts ever to relegation-battling Sunderland with a trip to Wembley on the line for the Capital One Cup final.

Heck, the fact that United may have to go through Europa League qualifiers this summer has already scuttled plans for a North American tour the team had planned – which is money down the drain.

The one thing that isn’t really up for debate is that Mata is expendable from Chelsea’s point of view. After being named the team’s top player two years running, new manager Jose Mourinho didn’t envision the 25-year-old Spaniard in his plans, opting for Oscar – who is no slouch – in the No. 10 role. You can’t discount the fact that Chelsea has to abide by the financial fair play rule, like everyone else in Europe now, and posted a big loss a couple of weeks ago.

Selling off the unneeded Mata will give the team flexibility to make some moves to address the issues on its front-line – which is a situation that could get even worse if Fernando Torres or Samuel Eto’o pick up a knock.

Also, what does this move say about Mata?

With no chances at the domestic cups and a minimal shot at getting into Champions League this season – even Europa League could be a struggle – Mata may not be playing European football at all next season. And he is also cup-tied to the Blues for the rest of this season’s European schedule.

While it is understood that Mata wants to play and probably needs to play to cement his status with Spain heading into the World Cup, I’m sure there were other options out there for him.

Without European competition, Mata could want out in the summer, making this essentially a loan deal – almost unthinkable considering United’s stature worldwide.

United has splashed out a club-record bid of 37 million pounds for the Spaniard and if he were to walk away, it would be devastating.

And while I get the club’s situation is getting more dire by the game seemingly, why is only now that Moyes and Co. are ready to splash some cash?

United lost out on several players in the summer because they refused to meet valuations of their targets – had they done so then, maybe they wouldn’t have ended up with the mediocre Maraoune Fellaini and gotten their first-choice targets.

The whole situation is curious, but for once this season there is reason to cheer on the red side of Manchester.

Leave a Reply