Where Does Juan Mata Fit In At Manchester United?
It has really happened. The magician of Stamford Bridge has taken his talents north to Manchester, breaking the hearts of Chelsea supporters and winning the loyalties of Manchester United fans in the process. It would have been a good buy for any team, but was it a necessary purchase for United? Not because of issues of depth, and not because of positional needs. However, because there has not been hope at Old Trafford, Juan Mata was brought in.
Manchester United have been atrocious this year, managing only a seventh-place spot that is probably generous given their lack of quality and team spirit this year. Frankly, the players have not shown the discipline that has been a hallmark of United teams in the past, and it is astonishing that this same team won the league a year ago.
Now they have a player to rally around — a player that helped bring Chelsea the European glory they had been seeking for so long but had recently found himself out of favor with Jose Mourinho. Yet, tactically, where will the maestro fit in at Old Trafford?
While Wayne Rooney is still battling injury, he will most likely slot into his preferred role right behind the striker. But with Rooney set to sign a huge contract extension, it is clear that the Red Devils will be making the Everton-born forward a priority.
That pushes Mata to the wings, similarly to where be began his career with Chelsea on the right wing under Andres Villas-Boas. However, United already have Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj who prefer the right side, so he is forced to the left with only Ashley Young to contend with. Despite being left-footed, Mata’s brilliance truly shows when he is able to play centrally.
Will the £37 million transfer fee be enough to warrant Moyes giving Mata the attacking midfield role he prefers? Or will he go the way of Shinji Kagawa and be played out of position until he becomes irrelevant despite former glories?