Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata and winger Ashley Young are expected to leave the club after Christmas, according to reports. Mata and Young have both fallen down the pecking order since the arrival of Louis van Gaal as United manager, and both have been tipped to exit the club come the January transfer window.
Mata, who was signed last season by then United coach David Moyes, has had a disappointing spell since joining from Chelsea. Despite an impressive goal return and being popular with the fans, Mata has failed to shine in any of the big games. Van Gaal initially played Mata, but the Spaniard was dropped against Leicester City and West Ham United as the Dutchman opted to play Wayne Rooney behind Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.
His former club, Valencia, are said to be interested in bringing Mata back to Spain and Mata could be tempted to go in order to secure regular playing time. However, now that Rooney is about to start an automatic three-match ban for his straight red card against the Hammers last weekend, Mata will get a chance to change van Gaal’s mind.
Young has been linked with Southampton, Sunderland, and former club Aston Villa. The winger has failed to impress since he made a bright start to his Old Trafford career in 2011. However, after a few games, he was injured and has since failed to live up to expectation. A loss of form combined with regular accusations of diving, the player is not the most popular amongst fans and the media. Despite featuring for United during the preseason tour of the US, Young has fallen out of favor. Now that Ángel Di María has made the left wing his own and with Ander Herrera currently occupying the right, ahead of Antonio Valencia, Young knows United must suffer a monumental midfield injury crisis if he is to start another match.
Although United fans will be disappointed to see Mata leave, United have an embarrassment of riches in the “number 10” role with Rooney, Adnan Januzaj, and Di María all able to play there. Herrera was also used in that position during the US tour. Van Gaal said when he first took on the United post that the squad was unbalanced, with too many players in the same position. Shinji Kagawa, another player who would be used in the hole, left United recently to return to Borussia Dortmund, because he knew he was surplus to requirements.
United have looked solid in attack since the start of the season, but have leaked goals with a number of porous defensive displays. Although United will be able to outscore teams on occasion, they will come undone against the big sides who know how to exploit the team’s weaknesses.
Van Gaal knows he must shore up the United defense in January and will have to spend big as selling clubs know he is desperate. With Mata and Young set to leave at the same time, they could help subsidize other deals to bring players in the other direction.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd