Credit to Juan Mata, he could have gone public and made a mess of his thus far unpleasant third season in English football. Most players would have, especially with the World Cup coming up and a place in the squad hanging in the balance amid positive and productive campaigns from his countrymen across England and Europe.
Maybe it’s naïve, but it’s for that reason that I believe Jose Mourinho will oblige Mata his move to Manchester United, provided David Moyes and Ed Woodward put together a financial package that makes it close to impossible for Chelsea to reject.
The obvious starting point is that Mourinho doesn’t fear Moyes and United anymore, though it doesn’t really make much sense beyond the next few months of this season. Mata will still be the same player next term, boosted further, you’d hope, by United’s strong summer in the market. There isn’t much of a threat up until May, and that’s understandable given United’s position. But beyond that, a Mata-led United will be more than capable of damaging Chelsea’s trophy aspirations.
Mata hasn’t had a bad thing to say about Mourinho up until this point. Even Kevin De Bruyne, whom Mourinho had little interest towards, was offered a way out of the club in order to boost his chances of representing Belgium in the summer. Of course, Wolfsburg’s offer was extremely tempting, with the German club putting together a squad capable of challenging at the highest point of the Bundesliga in the coming seasons.
Mourinho may not have fancied De Bruyne starting ahead of other clear favourites, but there’s little to no evidence of a break down in the pair’s relationship. A discussion between the two likely preceded the youngster’s move back to Germany, and considering Mourinho is so highly spoken of as a manager who works on the human level as well as the sporting level with his players, you can start to believe that the Portuguese was more than willing to offer De Bruyne his way out.
Juan Mata will turn around the fortunes of Manchester United, there are few doubting that. What is also important is that he’ll buy Moyes time if the newly-worked target of qualifying for the Champions League is achieved. Mourinho knows how good the Spaniard is: 20 goals last season acts as just some evidence of his quality.
But in the past where Mourinho would have likely waged war on the transfer front against Manchester United in order to keep the midfielder, he’s mellowed somewhat since his return to England. Mata isn’t the first big name he’s allowed to move on. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have upset Inter Milan when the Italian side, managed then by Mourinho, met Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the knockout stages of the 2009-10 Champions League campaign. It’s an aspect of the game managers and clubs have to accept, and it certainly isn’t lost on Mourinho now.
There is more than likely something coming Mourinho’s way via the market. If not Wayne Rooney in an Ibrahimovic-Samuel Eto’o-style swap, then certainly in another top centre-forward in the summer, funded by the sale of Mata to United.
United, too, will be on the lookout to strengthen considerably. Whether Mourinho fears them or not at this stage, there will be reason to look to Old Trafford again in the near future and see a club rejuvenated.