Much has been made of the potential gains made by adding Juan Mata to the Manchester United FC squad, but with Mata sidelined for Wednesday’s Champions League match, Robin van Persie found a way to shine, scoring a hat trick. Premier League pundits have made a big deal of late about the negligible impact made by bringing the striker over from Chelsea, particularly given the high price tag. Despite his considerable skill set, many have felt the addition did not provide the piece that was lacking on the attack.
One of the biggest concerns in evaluating the contributions of Juan Mata to the Manchester United front is the fact that he and Wayne Rooney have similar playing styles, and that Rooney has begun to sit back from the great passing combinations and teamwork previously showcased with Robin van Persie. Essentially, in order to accommodate the addition of Mata, Rooney has drifted into a position closer to midfielder, feeding the ball in up front instead of taking it to the net in the way that most supporters are used to seeing. The quick passes and deft interplay that the pair had developed has been lacking in the supposedly improved attack.
Clearly, Mata brings a lot to the table, and is growing in popularity with the Old Trafford faithful, but it has been raised on more than one occasion that manager David Moyes may have reached to make this deal happen just to have something to show the United supporters out of a January transfer window that did not present a lot of good options. It is possible that by adding an expensive and talented piece to form the “big three,” he may have taken away more than he added to the squad. The fact that the Rooney-van Persie combination worked so well in the Champions League match points to the possibility, at least.
Moyes is under heavy fire at the moment with the poor performance of the club in the Premier League. The calls for his sacking have been heard in earnest again this week after the beating United took against Liverpool last weekend in front of the home crowd. This has not been ameliorated by the fact that they were able to overcome a 2-0 aggregate deficit to advance in the Champions League. If anything, many are saying that this is just proof that the squad they had before Mata was capable of playing at this level, but were simply mis-managed by Moyes. It seems an unfair claim, particularly given the injuries to both Rooney and van Persie during the course of this campaign. Only recently have they been healthy together for any amount of time in order to re-visit the old chemistry that they had before. Whether fair or not, however, there is a growing number of people who have given up on the possibility of Moyes turning the club around to a significant enough degree to warrant keeping him on.
It could well lie with Mata after all. Many agree that if Moyes were given the opportunity to make adjustments and additions with the benefit of a full summer transfer window, he might just be able to succeed. The long-term signing of Rooney ought to make United a more attractive destination this summer than it was in January. Whether or not he will be given the chance will depend heavily upon the rest of the Premier League campaign. Mata will need to have a more significant impact going forward, and help the club to climb in the standings. It will not sit well with the Manchester United faithful if Juan Mata were to prove an ineffective choice to help turn the season around, particularly when Robin van Persie shows the ability to shine without his assistance.
Commentary by Jim Malone