Earlier this month I wrote an article about players United were linked to in this transfer window and how realistic our hopes of signing them were.
Juan Mata, one of the best players in Europe over the past few seasons, was a bit of a pipe dream. The papers suggested that it was a possibility but it seemed ridiculous to think we had any chance of making it happen.
Firstly, we had rejected Chelsea’s bids for Wayne Rooney in the summer and it appeared as though any chance of us signing Mata hinged on us exchanging him. Mourinho hinted that this deal had been considered in the summer but United weren’t interested. Plenty of United fans couldn’t understand this though, given Mata is younger (and better?) than Rooney. Still, the club had made it clear there was no way Rooney would be leaving so it appeared as though any deal for Mata would be off the table.
Secondly, PSG were rumoured to be interested, and there’s no doubt they could blow us out of the water financially, and you had to wonder whether Mata would be willing to leave for another club in England, given the relationship he had with the fans and owner at Chelsea.
It has since been revealed that Ed Woodward conducted the deal using representatives and didn’t once pick up the phone to Chelsea. United wanted Mata but didn’t want Chelsea to get any ideas about Rooney. Given the repeated fuck ups over the summer, the club employed the right tactics for this deal.
Whilst Chelsea fans are disappointed that Mata has gone to the club that they’ve hated for years, who’ve deprived them of league titles and the European Cup, the truth is that no other club came in for a bid. Having an extra £40m lying around in January is a luxury that only a few clubs in Europe can boast of and none of them were as desperate as United were for a world class player half-way through the season.
A week before this happened, Rooney was being linked with a move to Real Madrid in the paper and Jose Mourinho was asked about the situation.
“I think maybe this summer they will try to sell to a non-direct rival,” he said. “But they were very clear, not to a domestic direct rival.”
In selling us Mata, Chelsea haven’t only considerably strengthened our team, but they’ve also put United in a much better negotiating position when it comes to holding on to Rooney and convincing other top players to join the club.
If Rooney signs a new contract, as he has now been reported keen to do since Mata joined, it means United don’t have to fear losing one of the club’s best players on the cheap this summer or for free next summer. I won’t be heart broken if we can sell him to a club abroad for a decent sum and bring in a younger replacement. The salary his departure would free up for another world class player is huge. But as has always been the case with these repeated Rooney sagas, the club always gets the better of Paul Stretford, and that appears to be what is happening again this time.
Of course, Rooney does alright for himself. Every time we’re in this situation he gets a salary increase, so it’s not as if he’s really paying for his disloyalty. But at least we are still getting to make the decision on which club he plays for.
However, keeping Rooney at the club as well as signing Mata means we David Moyes has a big decision to make. He didn’t deem Shinji Kagawa as worthy of changing the formation for, instead shifting him out on the wing as Sir Alex Ferguson did, but will the manager make the change for Mata?
The prospect of playing both Mata and Rooney behind Van Persie is mouth-watering and it’s hard to find a more frightening attack in Europe. When you look at the goals and assists these players have over the past few years, you’d struggle to find forwards who match them.
The worry is that Moyes will stick to his 442 and put Mata on the wing, with Rooney and Van Persie up front. Princess Rooney has let his feelings on playing out of position be known, so whilst there could be the option of rotating him with Mata, it’s unlikely Moyes could use that approach as a long-term solution.
The only benefit of fitting our players in to the current, traditional formation is that it would mean we could start Van Persie, Rooney, Mata and Januzaj, with the latter two on the wings.
Stoke away probably isn’t the best place to start messing about with your tactics, but it will be interesting to see what Moyes plans to do with our new superstar.