Mata to Man United makes no sense for Chelsea

Posted by Phil Lythell

Laurence Griffiths/Getty ImagesJuan Mata can't off the bench under Jose Mourinho but does it make sense for Chelsea to sell to one of their biggest rivals in Manchester United?

Barely 48 hours after Manchester United were swept aside 3-1 by Chelsea on Sunday, the newswires have been humming with rumours of a Red Devils move for Juan Mata, a player that did not even feature in the Blues' 3-1 win.

United’s lack of spark -- Adnan Januzaj aside -- was evident at Stamford Bridge and a move for Chelsea's double player of the year would enhance their team immeasurably. With Mata himself currently out of favour and desperate to reclaim his place in the Spain national squad ahead of this summer's World Cup, it would appear that the pieces might be falling into place for such a dramatic transfer to happen.

What that does not factor in, however, is what the motivation might be behind any willingness on Chelsea's behalf to lose somebody of such rare talent and popularity within the club to a major rival. United might not be posing too much of a threat to their ambitions this season though that could be very different next time around especially if they start bolstering their ranks with individuals of Mata's quality.

Still, that has not hindered reams of conjecture and misinformation from being distributed with the clubs using the press to disseminate their missives. Manchester United have claimed that they have not made a bid though they have also reportedly insisted that, should any proposal be made, Wayne Rooney will not be included in any deal. For their part, Chelsea have admitted that they would be prepared to listen to offers for Mata though the fee would have to be in excess of 35m pounds.

Of course, none of this has come from official channels with the Londoners' stance being the subject of an "understanding" by Sky Sports, that now infamous disclaimer that protests the reporting body from any embarrassment when the rumour is shown to have no foundation whatsoever. To be fair to the press, they are often fed stories by the media officers and used as pawns by football clubs in order to manipulate transfer fees, appease their supporters or undermine their rivals. The blame for reporting erroneous information is not always the fault of the Fourth Estate.

But assuming that Chelsea’s interest in receiving bids for Mata has been reported in good faith, it would still be an incredible surprise if they were to sell him to United in this current transfer window. Even ignoring the fact that they would be strengthening one of the perennial contenders for the Premier League crown, there would appear to be little to gain from losing such a good player in the middle of a campaign that could still yield so much. Should Oscar or Willian be struck down with injury suddenly then Mata would be the ideal man to step into the breach so why would Mourinho risk harming his title ambitions by offloading him?

The only argument would be if Chelsea were able to capture the big name striker they desire before the end of the transfer window though the chances of that happening are somewhere between slim and none. The only two potential options would be Radamel Falcao who is reportedly unhappy at Monaco and has the attraction of being free to play in the Champions League; or Rooney himself.

For starter, the Colombian has recently dismissed any notion of an imminent transfer to Stamford Bridge by claiming that he has never even considered playing for Mourinho. Meanwhile, Rooney is unlikely to agitate for a move even though there are constant rumours about his desire to make the switch, as proved by his taciturn behaviour when the same subject arose last summer.

Even if, by some miraculous turn of events, he did publicly express his desire to move to West London, would signing Rooney right now be an especially smart piece of business? The England striker is just coming back from an injury in the middle of the season yet would be expected to hit the ground running in order to vindicate the financial outlay and the timing of the deal. Chelsea have rolled the dice like this once before and were stung for their efforts. It surely makes more sense to keep Mata from United's grasp and then try to exploit Rooney's contract situation in the summer.

Putting the practicalities to one side, the fact that Mata's departure is not just being discussed but being spoken of as a fait accompli in the near future is not something that fills the hearts of Chelsea fans with anything other than sadness. The little Spaniard has been a revelation both as a magician on the pitch and as man with a genuine affection for the city of London and the club itself. Mata has always conducted himself with great dignity despite the fireworks that might have gone on around him and his pivotal in writing Chelsea's name in the history books by playing a fulsome part in the capture of two European trophies will never be forgotten.

Unfortunately for him, Mourinho cannot afford to be too sentimental in his pursuit of success and if the manager prefers somebody else in his position then his fate is all but sealed. The team is excelling in his absence which has prevented the supporters from clamouring for his inclusion even if in a perfect world he would be the man orchestrating their success.

Whether he plays a major part during the rest of the season or is merely a spectator, he will almost certainly be doing it as a Chelsea player. In the meantime, United will have to just look with envy.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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