A knee injury has ruled Robin Van Persie out of action for the next six weeks. The Manchester United striker will miss some big games, including both legs of the Bayern Munich quarterfinal tie in the Champions League, and also Manchester City next Tuesday in the Premier League.
It is bad news for manager David Moyes, who has been under pressure this season, but it could be good news for one person. Juan Mata has struggled since his move to United from Chelsea in January. Playing on the left wing is not a position he really enjoys or is very effective in. When Mata signed, there was huge optimism among United fans about how great he would be, especially in tandem with Van Persie and Wayne Rooney. In reality, however, it has proven difficult to get all three in the one team and in their best and most effective positions.
Rooney and Mata, effectively, want to play the same position. Neither wants to be out on the wing, out of the game. They are players who control games from the center and make the difference close to the box. It is hard to do that from the wing, but otherwise, how do you fit them all in? It’s difficult.
Mata has not had much effect on United games, barring sparse occasions when he has shown his class. In the Champions League against Olympiakos in midweek, Danny Welbeck played in Mata’s place (as he is cup tied) and honestly, Welbeck did more in one game than Mata has done in months since he arrived at the club.
Mata needs to play central to be at his most effective. Van Persie’s injury may now open the door for Mata to move inside into his favored position. Rooney could then take up Van Persie’s striker position, and Mata could then play in behind and supply Rooney as we all know he can. It could be the real start to Mata’s United career.
The problem then, of course, is if Mata and Rooney hit things off, what do you then do with Van Persie when he is fit again? It will make for interesting viewing both now and next season to see how Moyes will accommodate his star players. He must have an idea in mind, or else why buy Mata in the first place?
Van Persie’s injury is obviously a blow for United, but the upside is that it should give United the chance to experiment with a few other options; more precisely, ways to get Mata more involved, which is what they need to do, as he’s been too ineffective so far in his United career. Hopefully for him and United, this could be the chance he needs. Of course, Moyes may have other ideas, he’s the manager. You would think kick starting Mata would be a priority though — and putting him in his best position now, while you can, would be the best way to do it.