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Friday, 24 January 2014

Manchester United: Can Juan Mata rescue United's top four hopes?


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Manchester United have been knocked out of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup and their hopes of finishing in the top four look bleak given their current form, but can their record signing Juan Mata rescue their Champions League hopes?

The defending Premier League champions look set to unveil the Spaniard at Old Trafford later today in a deal worth £37 million. Mata, crowned Player of the Season at Chelsea in consecutive seasons, has failed to convince Jose Mourinho that he deserves a place at Stamford Bridge but David Moyes has smashed the bank to acquire his services.

MataSome critics have been quick to question Manchester United's policy here. Sure Mata is a wonderful footballer, but is a player who can't even get a game for Chelsea really worth that amount of money? Sceptics have also pondered if the balance of power has now shifted that far since Fergie left and Mourinho returned that Chelsea do not even consider United a real threat?

There's no doubt that Mata is a top class player. He has lit up the Premier League since he arrived in 2011. Chelsea paid Valencia £23.5 million for the mercurial midfielder, beating the dithering Arsene Wenger to his signature. And it has proved to be money well spent. Mata is a magician on the ball, lethal at dead ball situations and is never selfish, always looks for the best option available. In many ways Mata is a player who would have been perfect for Arsenal, but alas that wasn't to be.

Mata will undoubtedly be a success at Old Trafford, but is he really the type of player they need? Well, they needed someone and Mata is someone who comes with plenty of Premier League and big game experience. He will give the Theatre of Dreams a real boost following Wednesday night's Capital One cup exit. United needed someone young and fresh in the middle of the park as their midfield has become stagnant.

However, some believe United would have been better off signing someone like Javier Mascherano. A player who will sit in front of the back four, is willing to break up play and scare the opposition. Even Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye has been mooted. Others though insist that it's the defence that should be the manager's main priority with Rio, Evra and Vidic now the other side of 30.

They may have a point, but United could simply not pass up the opportunity to sign Mata. These deals don't come along every season. An attacking three of RVP, Rooney and Mata will strike the fear of God into defenders across Europe, although question marks remain on whether Rooney will sign a new contract at Old Trafford.

Mata is 25 and has won the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League with Chelsea and has got his hands on the World Cup and the European Championship. He is a winner and a talented one at that. He can split defences with one ball, he can ghost in behind defenders and can score. His assist record is second to none and the likes of Welbeck and Hernandez will be spoon fed opportunities to score on a regular basis.

United are six points adrift of fourth place with 16 games to go. Some pundits have already written them off as Champions League contenders, but people need to remember that anything is possible when it comes to United. If Moyes can get, and keep, Rooney and RVP fit then they will have a huge say in determining who will take their crown come May. 

Mata alone will not be able to guide United to the top four, but his arrival will give everyone associated with the club a huge lift. Mata, Rooney and RVP is a mouth-watering prospect and United should hand out a few drubbings between now and May with those three. 

But will his arrival ensure United can beat Liverpool, Everton, Spurs and Newcastle to fourth place? It should prove to be an exciting end to the season.

Calling all Manchester United fans: Can Mata secure a Champions League place for United? Do you think Moyes is wise to spend this amount of money on Mata or do you think there were more pressing areas of the pitch to strengthen? Will Mata be a hit? Can Mata persuade Rooney to stay? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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