Transfer news: Manchester United are so big, we can buy top players even without Champions League pull, claims David Moyes

Juan Mata was convinced to join from Chelsea despite no guarantee the Red Devils will qualify for Europe's premier competition

Manchester United will continue to pursue the best players in the world even if they fail to qualify for the Champions League, said David Moyes yesterday. The man sitting alongside him was proof of that.

Having completed the signing of Juan Mata for a club-record fee of £37.1m, the Manchester United manager was unequivocal when asked what Old Trafford’s future might look like outside the European elite. “Players will still join Manchester United for what the club stands for, for what it’s been, its history and the players who have come through here,” he said. “I think the message this sends is that we are going for all the best players in the world at Manchester United and I think Juan is one of those.”

Financially, the loss of Champions League football will make no difference to United since the average £30m revenues it generates will be made up by the income from the kit deal with General Motors that comes into effect next season.

The press conferences that announced United’s official noodle partner, official spirits partner and official tyre partner may have produced plenty of sniggers but the deals have built up a considerable financial buffer against short-term failure.

Moyes argued there would be more players sold between the big Premier League clubs “because that is where the best players are concentrated”. There was surprise the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, had made Mata available but Moyes added: “Chelsea have got several players of his type, in a way. We didn’t have that type and I thought we could do with this kind of player.”

One of the considerations Mata had to weigh up when deciding to leave Stamford Bridge was that he would be ineligible to play for United in this season’s Champions League and that he would be joining a club that, frankly, are floundering.

“What I like most about the club is its character,” he said. “If any other club was in this position in the league, it would be very, very difficult for them to come back and take first position.

“This club can do it, always can do it. This is a club that can fight together to the end, with character on the pitch. The real image I have of Manchester United is a club always trying to win titles, always fighting for everything and always coming back from difficult moments.”

Nevertheless, if Mata could afford to ignore the European Cup he won in his first season at Chelsea, the World Cup is another matter. Iker Casillas might make Vicente del Bosque’s starting line-up in Brazil without being first choice for his club, but there will not be many more exceptions. “The World Cup was really important in my thinking,” said Mata. “The Spanish squad is a very difficult one to get into. I hope this move is going to be a great chance for me, to keep playing, be fit and show the manager of the national team that I want to be there and that I have to be there.”

During United’s last “difficult moment”, the staggeringly incompetent penalty shoot-out with Sunderland for a place in the League Cup final, Moyes looked drained and beaten even by the standards of a season in which pictures of him grimacing on the touchline have been strewn across the back pages.

Yesterday, he was relaxed, buoyant even. It was perhaps not the moment to remind him that the last two managers to sign Mata, Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea and Valencia’s Quique Sanchez Flores, did not last long after his arrival.

Both on and off the pitch, however, the 25-year-old is Moyes’ kind of player – educated, intelligent and obvious captaincy material over the course of his five-year contract. When he was Everton manager, Moyes was infuriated by Wayne Rooney chewing gum during a press conference.

Here he noted the cut of Mata’s suit – “a gentleman” he called him. The player in turn appreciated the helicopter United had laid on to take him to their training complex at Carrington.

Mata, who will reinforce a midfield Sir Alex Ferguson neglected during his final years at United, may be the most important signing since Rooney himself arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2004. Moyes recognises that, by himself, Mata is not enough.

“What he can do is help improve results,” he said. “We have had a problem at Old Trafford making and scoring goals. That has been our biggest downfall.

“I don’t think this puts my stamp on the team because a couple of new signings isn’t all that’s needed,” he said. “There is a bigger job to be done but you have to start somewhere.

“If you asked me what I needed most, I would say a central midfielder. I could do with a left-back but I hoped something would fall for us in the transfer window. But Juan can’t solve everything.”

 

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