The sense of relief was almost palpable as Juan Mata netted a somewhat fortuitous winner for Manchester United against Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Spaniard was dropped to the bench by Louis van Gaal, with the Dutchman’s wealth of attacking options becoming, in some ways, a burden, which has been a frustrating regular problem for the player this term.
A star of Mata’s quality would be starting week-in-week-out for around 90% of Europe’s top clubs, with his talents evident and record proven, yet United seem open to flogging their man after just 12 months, if reports are to be believed. We here at FFC Towers think that such a move would be an unwise one for the Red Devils, and here are FIVE reasons why…
Buying in foreign imports is a risk. For every Diego Costa there’s an Alfonso Alves, with records in other leagues not always transferring across to the hustle and bustle of the Premiership. United are said to be monitoring ‘Mata alternatives’ but snapping up a new playmaker from abroad, the most likely arena, would be a huge risk.
During 2011/12 and 2012/13 Mata was in terrific form for Chelsea, notching in excess of 10 league assists in each campaign while also finding the back of the net with regularity in domestic and European action. For the latter half of last season he was terrific for United, showing that he has the ability if given the chance to impress week-in-week-out. Read into that what you will…
Versatility in the modern game is key; no longer can a player be a one-trick pony, with occupying multiple roles for different games and situations so important. Louis van Gaal is famed for his flexible tactical approach, so a player like Mata should be of use to him.
The Spaniard can operate in any attacking midfield role, with his ability to use both feet and passing range making him a threat from either flank or in his favoured ‘No.10’ role. Angel di Maria can occupy the wings with great effect while Wayne Rooney is a better strike option than Robin van Persie or Radamel Falcao on form, so Mata in ‘the hole’ could be wise.
There’s no getting away from it, since Sir Alex Ferguson left United, United have struggled. It was always going to happen. Performances have dipped as managerial changes have been made, and attracting top players has become more and more difficult.
Signed for £37.1m in January 2014, Mata was the only ‘marquee’ arrival of the David Moyes era, and he really did shine at the back end of last season… as the stats show:
In a period of difficulty for United, the 26-year-old stepped up, so why should he be cast aside now?
Modern football is driven by finances. There’s not getting away from that. United have been massive spenders in recent years – their summer £150m outlay was the largest of any football club in history during one window – so losses cannot be made with missing out on the Champions League next season still a possibility.
Spanish sides are courting Mata, but the likes of Atletico Madrid are unlikely to be able to match the fee paid for the playmaker and the wages he commands at Old Trafford, meaning that a huge hit would be taken. Valencia are also keen on their former star, but even their new found wealth is unlikely to stretch to the sums needed for United to break even or make a profit.
When all is said and done, Juan Mata is a special player. During his Chelsea days he was voted the Blues’ player of the season twice and provided moments of sheer magic on the pitch… as the above video shows.
This talent does not disappear overnight, and with more playing time he will pull off theses tricks, flick and goals again and again.