Since the very beginning of his second reign as Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho has made it clear Juan Mata doesn't fit into his current Chelsea team and has, for the first time, now opened the door for his departure, per the Daily Mail Online’s Neil Ashton.
Mata’s reaction to being substituted during the recent win at Southampton showed his clear frustration at the opportunities he has had this term.
However, a potential move to Manchester United in January—hinted at by Paul Handler of the Manchester Evening News—would likely reignite the flair we associate with the Spaniard, who knows his chances of being selected for Spain’s World Cup squad this summer are under threat.
United are lacking real flair and creativity this season, but Mata is the kind of player who would help the Red Devils push for a place in the top four. Their title aspirations, for now, must be considered over after yet another blow that saw them lose 2-1 Wednesday at home to Tottenham.
United have had to rely on the individual brilliance of Wayne Rooney and a cameo role from young Adnan Januzaj to keep them in the top half of the table this term. Compared to the teams currently above them, United have created significantly fewer chances, as stats collated by Squawka show.
It is now clear, though, that Mourinho, aware of his player's unhappiness, has given the green light for Mata to leave and will not stand in the Spaniard's way if he departs Stamford Bridge, per Ashton:
I don’t want him to go, that is my opinion and that is my wish - but my door is open. The club door is open too, so when a player wants to speak with us we are there waiting for them. But if you ask me do I want to sell him, I don’t want to.
However, under no circumstances can Chelsea risk losing Mata to a rival like United. Even if it seems evident based on current performances that Chelsea will finish above United, a Mata transfer to the champions would have a detrimental effect for seasons to come. The Spaniard is only 25 years of age and has his best years ahead of him.
Mata won the club’s player of the year award for the past two seasons and was named in the PFA team of the year for 2012/13. He was instrumental in the team's Champions League victory under Roberto Di Matteo and was influential in caretaker coach Rafa Benitez's success last year.
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Frustrated by his inability to sign Rooney this summer, Mourinho must show defiance like United did over the England man, should any bid arrive from the Red Devils.
Selling to your rivals is often seen as a sign of weakness, and losing Mata to United would look like defeat on Mourinho’s part, but more importantly, it would significantly strengthen a club that can never be written off.