David Moyes spent a then club record £37 million on Spanish playmaker and two time Chelsea player of the year Juan Mata during his horrid spell at United. The fans were calling for Alex Ferguson’s successor’s head, results were poor and the morale of the squad, not to mention that of the fans, was awful. Pressure was on Moyes, whose only signing at the time was £27 million on Belgian flop Marouane Fellaini, to sign someone in the January transfer window.
The Scot did exactly that. It did, however, cause more problems than it solved. As this article will look at the pro’s and con’s of the Mata acquisition. Juan Mata is an absolutely exceptional player, the former Valencia man is so creative and, on his day, influences and dictates games. The Spanish international is one of the most creative players in the Premier League, as reflected by the statistics.
During his time at Chelsea, the club he arrived at in August 2011, the 26 year old picked up an impressive 33 goals and assisted a further 58 in 135 competitive appearances for the Blues. Since arriving at United in January earlier this year, Juan Mata has scored 7 goals and assisted 4 for a mediocre Manchester United side.
The Spaniard is a wonderful footballer, technically astounding as he dribbles in and out of defenders, his ability to not only see the pass that is on that nobody else would see, but to provide an inch perfect, beautifully weighted threaded through ball is inhuman. Mata could offer United so much in terms of creativity, scoring goals and playing the possession rich, exciting football the fans pay to see. There is just one thing stopping him however – his lack of versatility.
As good a footballer as Juan Mata is; and believe me, he is phenomenal, he is very uncomfortable playing outside his favoured position, the hole. Under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Mata was deployed out onto the wing and one of the reasons the Portuguese boss sold the Spanish World Cup winner was due to his lack of defensive willingness. Now at United, Mata has the problem of Wayne Rooney being the number one choice for the number ten role, a position in which both are best utilised.
Only adding more problems to the Spaniard’s list, new boss Louis Van Gaal has splashed the cash on Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, both attacking players. Van Gaal want’s to play a 3-5-2 formation, with no natural wingers, just wing backs, something Di Maria is unaccustomed to and a role the Argentine will unlikely be asked to perform in. The idea is three central defenders, two wing backs, two central midfielder’s and one centre attacking midfielder in behind the two strikers.
It is unlikely Van Gaal will replace Rooney with Mata in the hole, and it is unlikely the Dutch boss will want to leave either big name striker Radamel Falcao or Robin Van Persie on the bench either, ruling out reverting Rooney to his previous role as a striker.
So the problem for Mata is where he stands in the pecking order for the place in behind the two strikers. Well, club captain Rooney is the obvious first choice, and with British transfer record signing Angel Di Maria comfortable in that position as well, Mata looks like he could be set for another spell one the sidelines. The acquisition of Mata was, in my opinion, a panic signing. Moyes was under scrutiny for not spending so he bought a want away world class player without thinking about where he would fit into the team.
Juan Mata was signed to help stop United’s problems, instead, he has become one. As much as Juan Mata would offer Manchester United in terms of creativity, fluidity of passing etc, he makes the squad unbalanced. Given that Mata can not contribute anything from any other position other than the hole, the Spaniard can not fit Van Gaal’s system and I do not see him being a regular starter in this United side.
To sum up, a move away from Old Trafford would be best for everyone. Mata could join a club where he is number one choice for his proffered role, and Van Gaal would have less of a headache selecting his starting XI and keeping his whole squad happy. It is a tough decision, United will not want to lose a player of Mata’s calibre, but what is the point of paying his chunky wages to see him sit on the bench? Drop Rooney or sell Mata? Either way, a decision needs to be made, and fast.
If you were Louis Van Gaal, would you cut your losses with Juan Mata and sell the Spaniard on, or would you find a place for him in the system? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball .