Football

What Juan Mata Will Bring

It is fair to say that the signing of Juan Mata to Manchester United has come as a bit of a surprise. As a United fan this is a nice surprise, like discovering that the pretty girl down south you have lusted after from afar actually feels the same way. The transfer has been given extensive column space and seemingly everyone has an opinion. There is no doubting his quality but what exactly will the Spaniard bring and how will he fit in?

After dropping out of the title race and limply exiting both domestic cup competitions at home the team desperately needs a lift and this is exactly the sort of signing that will bring it. World class talent does not come cheap yet with Juan Mata the club has bought an undoubted winner. Indeed, in the summer of 2012 he could be called a European Championship winner and World Cup winner, European Cup winner and FA Cup winner. He has performed on the biggest stages and brings a consistency of performance that means he will not be overawed by surrounding talent or any big game.

That Jose Mourinho was willing to sell Mata should not raise any alarm, he simply did not fit into the manager’s tactical philosophy and the club did good business negotiating such a fee. This is no cast-off that Chelsea let go but a world-class player they simply could not find a place for anymore. At United he could make a huge different to the current team’s fortunes both short and long term.

If David Moyes is hoping to evolve the current team to his thinking then Mata is the sort of player to build around. The team needs a sprinkling of guile to make the difference in the final third and there are few players who can provide it like Mata. Still need proof? Then seek out three markedly different goals he played a direct part in against United last season. His set-piece delivery is exquisite; like the sublime free-kick in the league clash in October 2012. He can drift in from wide left into a pocket of space to deliver beautifully weighted through-balls like the one for Demba Ba in the FA Cup in April 2013. He can also finish; there is the deflected effort in the return league match but take a moment to watch and admire the technique in his volley at Stamford Bridge in February 2012.

To get into the current Spain squad, let alone midfield, is impressive enough. Alongside such vaulted company as Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso; Mata offers a versatility of operating across the midfield with intelligent movement. He is technically gifted and created 95 chances for Chelsea last season having missed three games. He also scored an equally impressive 85% pass success rate which includes 96 successful long balls. United have been long renowned as a leading exponent of the counter-attack and in that respect Mata will fit in very well.

He offers something different to what is currently on offer; a match-winner able to split defences with a deft pass or a driving run. There are questions raised over exactly where he will play but in this day and age you can never have enough world-class players in your team.

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Back Home – Where Reality Bites

So after two years, four months and three visas I am finally home. Whilst it is great to be back that statement alone provokes me to let out a sigh. The dream is over (for now) and reality is beginning to bite. Quite frankly, I am at a loss as to what to do with myself. Living abroad brings so many challenges that coming home almost seems boring. My laundry is done for me, I have my own bedroom and TV plus no-one is going to walk into my room drunk at 4.30am. There is no visa deadline to adhere to, no wholly desperate need to go out every night, the football is on at a sociable hour and your parents are only a phone call away.

Despite being at home it is almost impossible not to imagine what I would be doing right now if I was still in Australia, specifically Melbourne. For instance this weekend I would have probably been to Big Day Out on a freebie from a magazine. At some point I’d have spent the afternoon at a beach soaking up the rays on Australia Day Weekend. The tennis would be on constantly and I’d have made an effort to catch the Men’s Final in my favourite spot on a big screen next to the Yarra River with a couple of tinnies and some crisps. Then I’d have gone out, got routinely drunk and struggled to get myself home, it’s tradition.

After a week of being home I can confirm that little has changed here. The weather is grey and miserable, the house is still in the same place, as is my local, which is always reassuring. Everyone is a bit older; I only need to check my Facebook feed on a regular basis to catch up on who is pregnant/getting married/hating their job. Part of me wonders if I hadn’t decided on leaving whether I’d be a father or stuck with a mortgage. Hindsight is a bitch but taking two years out of my life to travel was ultimately worth it when I consider that so many people are unable to do it due to so many factors tying them down.

Since September 2011 I have seen so many fantastic places that I almost have to check a map to remember exactly where I have been. That sounds impressively arrogant yet I am still surprised that I managed it without begging my parents for money. The world may end tomorrow but at least I have scuba-dived The Great Barrier Reef, climbed the Franz Josef Glacier, taken in the isolated splendour of Uluru, dug my own bath at Hot Water Beach, bathed an elephant and crouched through Viet Cong tunnels amongst other things. Life is about experiences and should I ever have children I’ll be able to wistfully tell them about the time Daddie went away.

Having left Australia without arranging sponsorship I have had to live with the realisation that I’d be returning home for the past four months, a period that has been something of a blur. There is an idea of what I want to do in the immediate future yet there is no distinct urge to rush into it. Having spent so long away from home I need to settle back into England and make up for lost time. Of course, there is a tinge of embarrassment the comes from living at home but what living abroad has taught me is that you are always better off considering your options before making a rash decision. Just like recommending a future destination while traveling I need to speak to people in order to make a decision on my future. ┬áReality can wait until I’m ready to leave home.

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