With Juan Mata arriving at Manchester United and just a few days left in the transfer window, United fans are starting to wonder whether manager David Moyes has another trick up his sleeve. The £37.1m transfer of Mata from Stamford Bridge to Old Trafford has been seen as a signal of intent by some – and a panic buy by others.
Much like the arrival of Marouane Fellaini in the summer, the move comes as a bit of a surprise purely because of the fee spent. The Spaniard arrives after United smashed their transfer record by more than £6m to secure the signing – and with the Red Devils languishing in seventh place ahead of their game against Cardiff City, this is a move that is seen as a desperate attempt to revive the club’s fortunes.
United have been linked with top players all season and fans had been anxiously waiting to see if Moyes could do any better than he did in the underwhelming summer window. Having failed to bring in the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Leighton Baines, the boss was hoping to do better this month. The club had been linked with Baines, Ander Herrera of Athletic Bilbao, Southampton’s Luke Shaw, Juventus’ Arturo Vidal, Borrusia Dortmund’s Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan, and – of course – Mata.
Any of the aforementioned players would have been a massive coup for the club, but with so many creative players already on the books at United, Mata was one that not everybody wanted. Vidal, Herrera and Gundogan were all touted as being a preferred signing with United lacking a box-to-box presence in midfield – a tough edge that they have failed to replace since the days of Roy Keane.
And with United’s philosophy being built on width – the likes of Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Nani are all on the books at the club – signing a ‘number 10’ when Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj are already part of the club may not have been the best option. A player of Gundogan’s ilk would link defense to attack, help the forwards and protect the defenders.
They are qualities that the squad needs and that the fans demand. But signing Mata is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for Moyes. It shows that United still have pulling power and that they’re serious about winning trophies in the near future – a feat that looks desperately unlikely this season. Mata is another piece in the world class jigsaw that United are creating, and with another couple of top signings they could be back to the top of English football. His vision should be a fantastic help to the side and players like Javier Hernandez will excel with him in the side.
Mata could also show another side to his game and galvanize the side – just like Mesut Özil has done for Arsenal, and the likes of Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero have done consistently for Liverpool and Manchester City. He is a born winner – a World and European champion with Spain and a European trophy winner with Chelsea. He wouldn’t have joined the club if he didn’t think that they could challenge for trophies in the near future.
33 goals in 135 games speaks for itself and his attacking guile will push United on – just as long as everyone stays fit. The next battle is to ensure that their best players stay committed to the club. Losing Wayne Rooney or Robin Van Persie could be catastrophic for their future hopes. A strong spine of top players would allow them to sign others – such as Gundogan – and reclaim their crown as the biggest team in the country.