Alex Bonner assesses the impact of Chelsea fan favourite Juan Mata’s big-money move to Manchester United.
Juan Mata, the former Chelsea player, has recently joined Manchester United as part of a £37.1 million deal that will see the Spanish midfielder contracted to the club until 2018. Having applied his trade in the Premier League since 2011, Mata has grown during his time at Chelsea into one of the Premier League’s most talented midfielders.
To a majority of Chelsea fans, the decision to sell Mata to a Premier League rival seems strange, as the Spaniard’s creativity will undoubtedly benefit a currently under-performing United side. The move is also in the interests of Mata himself, who has made only 11 Premier League appearances for the blue of Chelsea this season.
With the World Cup in Brazil approaching, the 25-year-old Spanish international knows he is currently in a battle against a host of other world–class talents to make it into the Spanish 2014 World Cup squad, meaning his decision to join United seems obvious.
Indeed, Mata featured in Moyes’ starting line-up on his debut against Cardiff City on Tuesday night, slotting seamlessly into a United side hitherto lacking a first-rate midfielder. This decision comes as little surprise when you consider the Spaniard’s ability to create goal-scoring chances – only City’s David Silva has created more chances in the Premier League over the past three seasons.
As well as providing a sorely needed motivational boost, Mata’s arrival is likely to restore a creative spark to a United side that has missed the likes of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, who have recently been suffering from injury. Their absences have ensured that United’s scoring rate so far this season has been poor, the Red Devils currently averaging 1.65 goals per game – a large drop in their average goal tally from their title-winning 2012/13 campaign.
With Mata creating an opportunity every 28 minutes over the past two seasons, there is plenty to suggest the acquisition of Mata could prove the answer to United’s current creative problems.
David Moyes is now likely going to have to implement some significant tactical changes in order to fully integrate Mata into United’s starting XI. Assuming all of United’s players are fit, Moyes will likely implement a 4–2–3–1 formation, in order to facilitate the inclusion of players such as Rooney, Van Persie and Januzaj.
This formation, despite providing the framework to accommodate such players, will likely prevent the likes of Antonio Valencia and Nani from starting. In previous seasons, United have relied upon width to break down their opponents, but the 4–2–3–1 formation will likely restrict United’s ability to utilise this tactic.
On the other hand, United’s creative department will certainly benefit from such an acquisition, with the likes of Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa currently underperforming in their creative duties. The purchase of Mata has certainly delivered a statement, with United now boasting a formidable front three consisting of Van Persie, Rooney and Mata.
But, it’s worth noting that the side’s issues this season have come from all divisions on the pitch, meaning United will have to reinforce in other departments as well to have any realistic chance of gaining an elusive top–four finish.
Mata’s move to United should also aid Chelsea’s title ambitions, with a strengthened United team likely to prove a sterner test for the other teams in contention for the crown. United, who are seventh in the Premier League, have already played third-placed Chelsea twice this season, but have yet to play Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool for a second time.
Not only this, Chelsea are will also make around £14m worth of profit from the sale, the Spaniard arriving from Valencia for £23.5m in 2011, making the sale of Mata a shrewd move all round from Jose Mourinho.bookmark me