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.