Juan Mata is on the verge of a £40m-plus move to Manchester United - but is he the answer?
NO - says Gary Neville
He does not fit club’s buying philosophy and Moyes would have to restructure the team
Does Juan Mata fit with what I would call the typical philosophy of Manchester United? I would say no.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are up front, if they are fit, so where are you going to play him? Are you going to play him off the left or off the right?
We’ve seen Shinji Kagawa play off the left, we saw Kleberson play at times off the left, we’ve seen Juan Sebastian Veron at Manchester United move to the left because he couldn’t play central midfield.
They would have to change to accommodate Mata in the way they normally play. They normally play with wide players. Sometimes they tuck in, but generally they have wide players and the thing for me is where is he going to play?
Maybe they have to change the philosophy and maybe that’s what David Moyes is thinking. Maybe he wants to play narrow wide players and maybe a three in midfield.
Mata is obviously a fantastic football player, there’s no doubt about that, and one thing this potential move does do, I suppose, it shows that David Moyes, Manchester United and Ed Woodward need to sign a big player. They need to make a noise and if they get him in it will attract potentially other players – and they need three or four players.
That’s a lot of money, £37m, but they need a signing. What it could be is the start of something to lead to other things, but typically I wouldn’t say he fits.
If you took Paul Pogba, Marco Reus, Luke Shaw and Arturo Vidal – they would fit into Manchester United’s philosophy.
Lucas Moura would and Ilkay Gündogan and Julian Draxler would. They are young players who have still not reached their full potential and have the potential to go on to be world-class players.
They are good players at the moment and that fits the Manchester United mould of how they have historically signed, more often than not.
Gary Neville was talking on Sky Sports
YES - says Kevin Garside
Old Trafford’s tradition for wide players is outdated and creative deficit needs solving
What is a Manchester United player? The question is begged by the argument volunteered by Gary Neville that Juan Mata is not a man for Old Trafford. United, according to Neville must have wide players. Why? They have wide players now and it isn’t working.
Indeed, you might argue that the dogmatic adherence to that ancient notion is part of the problem currently afflicting Old Trafford. Maybe the idea of the same man hugging the touchline is itself outmoded?
I would not presume to lecture a member of the England coaching staff but I do worry that a thinker as deep as Neville feels a players as versatile and creative as Mata would not be a fit for United. Would he have the same concerns if Lionel Messi became surplus to requirements at Barcelona? Similarly, would he ever have countenanced the re-alignment of Cristiano Ronaldo from wing to roaming forward. Mata is no Ronaldo or Messi, but the point is made.
United have a creative deficit in the final third, the need of an incisive presence to fashion openings. Mata is proven in the Premier League and good enough to have been Chelsea’s player of the year two seasons running. That Jose Mourinho does not select him ahead of Eden Hazard, Willian or Oscar does not make the case against Mata.
Mourinho is paid to make these decisions and prefers the others, none of whom are shabby, above the Spaniard. He can afford to. Would Mata be out of the side if Mourinho was selecting from a pool of players including Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher, Phil Jones or, for that matter, Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young?
You might baulk at the £40m valuation, but there is little United can do to counter footballing inflation, however mad it is. And at that price Mata still comes in cheaper than Mesut Özil, his playmaking equivalent at Arsenal.
The story of United's decade of midfield woe...
The story of Manchester United's decade of midfield misery
The story of Manchester United's decade of midfield misery
1/15 Midfield woe
Many believe Manchester United’s midfield problems stem from never managing to find a replacement for Roy Keane. Continue to see the club’s decade of midfield misery…
In 2003, Man United said adios to not only Real Madrid-bound David Beckham but also Juan Sebastian Verón. Possibly originally signed as the eventual heir to Keane’s throne, the supremely gifted Argentine was not a success at the club and his exit goes down as one of Alex Ferguson’s bigger failures.
3/15 Eric Djemba-Djemba arrives
Arriving as Beckham and Verón left, the Cameroonian was supposed to be 'so good they named him twice'. In the end he managed only 20 league appearances for the club and within 18 months he was on his way to Aston Villa where he similarly failed to impress. By the age of 26 he was playing his football in Qatar.
4/15 Kleberson arrives
Kleberson's performances at the 2002 World Cup led to his coach Phil Scolari declaring him the driving force behind Brazil's win and Ferguson signed him for £6.5m on the same day as Cristiano Ronaldo. However his career took a slightly different path to the Portuguese winger and the Brazilian managed only 20 appearances for the Red Devils before being sold to Besiktas.
5/15 2005 – Roy Keane left the club
An ever-increasingly injured Keane infamously spoke out against some of his United teammates and his departure from the club was assured. He was eventually sold to Celtic. Midfield flops Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson left the club the same year.
6/15 2006 - Michael Carrick arrives
A man who divides supporters’ opinions, it is hard to say whether Carrick should go down as a success or failure. Took some time to establish himself at United but eventually came to be regarded by some as their most important midfielder. However has never established himself as an England regular and some would argue that being the best midfielder from a poor selection is not the same as being a good midfielder.
7/15 2007 – Owen Hargreaves arrives
Eventually labelled one of the 'most disappointing signings’' of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career by the man himself, things started very well for Hargreaves at United and he was an integral part of helping the side to Champions League and Premier League glory in 2008. However the remainder of his career was blighted by injuries and he left on a free in 2011, eventually signing for rivals Manchester City.
8/15 Anderson arrives
Now on his way out of Old Trafford after six-and-a-half disappointing years, the Brazilian has never really looked like justifying his £25m price tag. For many epitomises United’s ongoing midfield problems.
9/15 Rodrigo Possebon arrives
Who? You might well ask. The Brazilian made only three first team appearances in two years for United before being sold to Santos. He now plays in the Brazilian second division.
10/15 2009 –Tom Cleverley
At the club from the age of 12, Cleverley rose through the ranks to join the seniors in 2009. Impressed during a loan spell at Wigan, but has been inconsistent at best while at United.
11/15 2011 – Phil Jones arrives
Technically signed as a defender, Jones has actually often been impressive when slotting into midfield. Goes down as a rare success in recent years.
12/15 2012 – Paul Scholes returns from retirement
Things got so bad for United that Scholes had to come out of his recent retirement to help out. Proved to be useful on his return but it was a fairly damming verdict on the rest of United’s midfielders.
13/15 Shinji Kagawa arrives
A key part of the success of Borussia Dortmund, much excitement greeted the signing of Kagawa. However for one reason or another he has failed to replicate the same form at United and currently is proving something of a disappointment.
14/15 Paul Pogba left the club
Described by Zinedine Zidane as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest mistakes during his Manchester United career, the French youngster was allowed to leave for Juventus on a free. Currently tearing up Serie A and wanted back by United, the midfielder is now valued at £40m. Ouch.
15/15 2013 – Marouane Fellaini
The only midfield signing in a disastrous summer of transfer dealing for United. Fellaini was considered very overpriced and has subsequently failed to really impress at United.
- More about:
- Chelsea F.c.
- David Moyes
- Gary Neville
- Jose Mourinho
- Manchester United
- Premier League
- Real Madrid