Manchester United making the right move by signing Juan Mata

Posted by Ian Darke

Juan Mata's move from Chelsea to Manchester United (pending personal terms and medical) makes perfect sense for both clubs -- and certainly the player himself. The 37 million pound ($56 million) fee means Chelsea get a 50 percent-plus profit on a player who gave them great service, but whose face no longer fitted at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United get a desperately needed lift from the kind of creative world-class talent which has been missing from their pedestrian midfield. And Mata, mystified by his fall from grace in West London, gets a chance to restake his claim for a place in Spain's World Cup squad.

Chelsea fans who voted Mata their player of the year for the past two seasons will be genuinely sorry to see him go.

Indeed, only a manager as revered as Jose Mourinho would have got away with sending the fans' darling to the football equivalent of Siberia.

The supporters saw only a wonderfully inventive ball player who scored his share of goals and generally ran the show at the Bridge. Mourinho saw a liability, a player who was fine when the team had possession, but lacked the energy and work rate he demanded when the team did not have the ball.

In any case, he had Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and the hard-running Andre Schurrle as attacking midfield options.

But why sell to a rival? Clearly because Mourinho believes with a 12 point lead over United, they are no longer rivals this year. Had David Moyes' team won at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to edge back into contention, this deal would not be happening.

I believe there is another factor at which Mourinho's detractors might scoff. Once a deal which made business and football sense was on the table, he would have wanted to play fair with a very popular player who had taken his exclusion on the chin without bleating to the newspapers. He may not have selected Mata, but he certainly liked and respected him enormously, warmly describing him as a "good boy and a top pro" at a recent news conference.

All of which leaves the question of how and where Mata fits in once everyone is fit at Manchester United. Ideally, he would be used at the point of a midfield diamond formation just behind Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. With those three in tandem, United would surely be a far different proposition to the team which has laboured so badly at Old Trafford this season.

Too cavalier? Perhaps. But it would certainly silence those who accuse Moyes of being too cautious and defensive-minded for a club as big as United.

The other three in that midfield would perhaps be Michael Carrick or Phil Jones in a holding role with Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini just ahead .

The "Moyes out" brigade should note that Rooney and RVP have only started together in eight matches all season because of injuries. United have won six, drawn two and lost none of those games.

In that regard, the manager has been plain unlucky. Neither can he be held responsible for the kind of howler from keeper David de Gea which cost United a place in the Capital One Cup final on Wednesday against Sunderland. But the new boss cannot escape the charge that he is failing to get the same tune out of the same players who won the title by 11 points last season.

For certain, it has been a tortuous start to the Moyes reign, rougher than even he might have feared. Without their two biggest names, United are a very ordinary side lacking in belief and confidence and in need of major surgery, especially in defence. A few of the old guard are past their best, while there must be worries now over whether youngsters like Jones, Rafael, Chris Smalling, and Tom Cleverley are worthy of their previous rave notices.

Then out wide there is the alarming slump of Ashley Young and Nani, and the decreasing influence of Antonio Valencia. And Mata's signing might spell the end for Shinji Kagawa.

Moyes might have to be very busy to rebuild this team and will have to make some very big calls. The time to judge him is when the surgery is complete and it is "his team.”

But signing Mata is no gamble. The little man is class -- and will be out to prove that Mourinho got him all wrong. His signing is a psychological boost to United when they need it most.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.