Manchester United have now confirmed the purchase of Juan Mata for a club record fee of record $61 million. The move was speculated over the summer but Jose Mourinho waited until playing both games against United to sell Mata. I’ll give my opinion on a few of the storylines around the transfer.
1. What Mourinho thinks of Moyes and United: At the beginning of the year, Chelsea were about to sell Demba Ba to Arsenal but Mourinho stopped the transaction once Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil, saying the Gunners would be too strong of a title contender if they received Ba. The fact that Mourinho is willing to sell Mata to United says he’s not scared. Even though Chelsea have played both of their games against the Reds this year, Mourinho is smart enough to know he’ll have to face Mata in years to come. Only time will tell whether Mourinho made a long-term mistake and whether Mata will come back to haunt him in the future.
2. Why Chelsea sold: Many people are asking why Chelsea sold one of their best players. There are a few opinions on the topic, and I think all of them have at least a little bit of validity to them. First of all, Mata didn’t really fit Mourinho’s counter attacking style. The Special One likes fast attacking midfielders that can cause havoc in a counter-attack and Mata didn’t really fit the bill as he’s more of a sit back, control the ball, and then create chances type of player. Second, Mata lacked a bit of defensive effort and physicality. If you look at most of the players Mourinho goes after, you’ll notice that they are very physical all excel on the defensive end, which is not exactly Mata’s description. Third thing is financial fair play. Financial fair play is a set of UEFA rules that try to prevent clubs from “buying titles” by simply spending a fortune on a roster and the sales of Mata and Kevin de Bruyne help Chelsea in that respect. It’s a fairly complicated topic, but feel free to check out the Wikipedia article on it as well as UEFA’s official Financial Fair Play Regulations. All three of these probably have some validity to them, and even though Chelsea fans aren’t happy to see a fan favorite go, they have to admit it wasn’t worth holding on to a $61 million man to sit on the bench.
There is also another theory here that I’ve heard being tossed around, but I’m not sure how much I agree with it. By giving them Mata now, Mourinho believes it will be more likely that United get rid of Rooney over the summer. If Mourinho gets Rooney, it will be a win/win for him. Mata strengthens United for the rest of the season, and at the end of it, it’s basically a Rooney-Mata swap. Rooney is a much better fit for Mourinho, and if Chelsea can pull that off, getting rid of Mata might not be that big of a mistake after all.
3. Pressure on Moyes: The purchase of Mata adds extra pressure on David Moyes, even if he doesn’t deserve it. No one will listen about how bad his defenders are when he has Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata up front. A team with those three is expected to be better than a mid-table club, and regardless of the defensive deficiencies, Moyes has to find a way to move United up the table if he wants a job after this season.
4. How Mata fits in at Manchester United (and on your fantasy team): Mata can play a few different positions so I don’t think he’ll have trouble fitting in at United. Moyes can play him on the wings or in the middle and Mata will find a way to create chances for van Persie and Rooney. If I had to put money on it, I’d guess Mata starts on the wing with RvP up top and Rooney right behind him. This increases Mata’s fantasy value significantly. Last year at Chelsea, he had 12 goals and 12 assists in 31 games with Fernando Torres being his main striker. He creates a chance every 27 minutes. That’s a little over three chances per game, which is scary considering van Persie was converting 23% of his chances last year. The question is, if RvP and Rooney come back healthy, which of the three will make your fantasy squad?
5. The big winner: One might ask who won in this transfer? United got a great player who brings a lot of creativity, especially useful against teams that park the bus. Chelsea had some financial relief in terms of UEFA’s rules and get to see Mata strengthen United against some of their title rivals. Short term, it’s a win-win. Long term? I think that will depend on whether Chelsea can snatch Rooney over the summer.
The big winner here is Juan Mata – as he’ll finally get solid playing time ahead of this year’s World Cup and he’ll once again be the focal point of a Premier League team’s attack.
Will you be adding Mata to your fantasy squad?