by Ahmad Khan
Juan Mata’s move to Manchester United has probably been the biggest move in the January transfer window so far.
The Spaniard, who has been left frustrated after playing second fiddle to Oscar at Chelsea this season, finalised his move to Old Trafford on Sunday in a club record deal worth £37.1 million.
Without a doubt, the acquisition of the playmaker will definitely give David Moyes’s men a much-needed boost after a series of poor performances and results this season. That was encapsulated by the recent Capital One Cup exit against relegation dwellers Sunderland in the most dramatic of fashion.
With United now at an all-time low, a player of Mata’s quality definitely has the potential to spur the team to end the season on a high, with a Champions League position still very much attainable at the very least - even if the title is too much to ask for at this point of time.
At only 25, the Spaniard’s resume is already bursting with trophies players only dream of achieving. He has won the FA Cup, World Cup, European Championships, Champions League and Europa League, and was also voted as Chelsea’s Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons.
In Mata, the Red Devils have also signed a player who was involved in 60 of Chelsea’s goals in the last two seasons in terms of scoring goals and providing assists. For a team that is struggling to create clear-cut chances, Mata’s skill and artistry could not have come at a better time.
However, Mata alone cannot solve United’s problems. If anything, the diminutive playmaker’s qualities, as important as they bring to any club, is arguably not what United need the most - at least for now.
Technically speaking, with Shinji Kagawa, Adnan Januzaj and even Wayne Rooney, United seem to be covered in the context of playmaking. Kagawa’s ability, albeit inconsistent, is there for all to see while Januzaj has been a revelation this season, so much that he has become the main attacking threat in recent games. And we all know what Rooney is capable of, wherever he is on the pitch.
Rather, the area where they are more in desperate need of reinforcements is in the lower half of the pitch.
United’s longstanding inadequacies in the middle of the park this season have been well documented. The 20-time champions are in desperate need to find a defensive lynchpin or a box-to-box type of player, not a quality Mata presumably has.
Furthermore, United’s backline need major reconstruction as well with the core of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra all on the brink of leaving the club once the season ends. Injuries and inconsistent showings have hampered the defense’s performances this season as well.
In short, United are comparatively in need of a more defensive player than one who creates chances.
But while it is fair to question whether Mata’s signing is a knee-jerk reaction to a series of poor performances, it should also be considered that a player of the Spaniard’s caliber does not readily come available, especially at this time of the season.
Yes, Mata’s transfer can be considered a purchase of desperation, but if his signing serves the purpose of giving United a much-needed boost and helps them clinch a minimum top-four finish, then the transfer will definitely have been a worthy investment.
Mata’s signing shouldn’t be a question of Moyes getting his priorities wrong. Instead, it should be whether it will be a catalyst for the changes that are to come, be it in the remaining January transfer window or in the summer.