Chelsea Transfer News: Blues Must Keep Juan Mata Away from Manchester United

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 19:  Juan Mata of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on May 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea marked a change in approach for the club and that's made it difficult for Juan Mata to secure regular playing time.

While that could lead to his exit as he seeks starts to make his World Cup case, the Blues shouldn't move him to Manchester United.

Ben Smith of the BBC reports no official bid has been made by United for the talented midfielder, but the ailing champions aren't ruling one out. He's emerged as a target as David Moyes tries to revitalize his stagnant roster:

Senior figures at Old Trafford have told the BBC that United have not made a bid for the player. However it is understood that the Spanish international midfielder is a target as Moyes seeks to bring in new faces to freshen up his struggling team.

Former United captain Gary Neville said on Sky Sports he doesn't think Mata would be the greatest fit based on what United has historically done, but what should worry Chelsea is the fact a move for Mata could signal something bigger at Old Trafford:

He's obviously a fantastic football player, there's no doubt about that, but one thing it does do, I suppose, is that David Moyes, Manchester United and Ed Woodward need to sign a big player.

They need to make a noise and if they get him in it will attract potentially other players—and they need three or four players.

What it could be is the start of something to lead to other things, but typically I wouldn't say he fits.

Chelsea should look at two situations from this season as a warning before even considering any bid for Mata from United or any other top Premier League club.

The first is the impact Mesut Ozil had on Arsenal. Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was under a lot of pressure to make a move to bolster his squad, but instead of wasting transfer funds on second-rate options, he waited for the right opportunity and pounced for Ozil.

It was a terrific coup. The German midfielder instantly improved the Arsenal attack, helping transform the squad from fringe contenders into legitimate title hopefuls as they sit atop the Premier League table through 22 matches.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Mesut Oezil of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich City at Emirates Stadium on October 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Ge
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

That's not to say Mata is on the same level as Ozil. While he did tally 20 goals and 35 assists across all competitions for the Blues last season, he isn't as complete of a midfielder as the Arsenal star. But he is a very strong attacking option with plenty of creativity, which United have lacked.

What Chelsea should see is that one player can change the entire outlook for a club. Ozil represented exactly the type of player Arsenal needed and his arrival was a huge boost.

That leads right into the second situation the Blues should learn from, which is letting Romelu Lukaku head out on loan to Everton.

It's no secret the Toffees' biggest problem in recent seasons was the lack of a reliable striker to headline the attack. They were solid everywhere else, but without someone atop the formation to finish the chances, they remained a non-threat.

Suddenly, with Lukaku building off his success with West Brom last season, Everton have become the toughest team to beat in the league with just 2 losses in 22 matches. They are also within striking distance on the top three, in large part because the striker has nine goals in 18 EPL appearances.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park on December 29, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Br
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Chelsea didn't have a clear path to playing time for the Belgian with Samuel Eto'o and Fernando Torres in the mix. Yet, by sending him to Everton, they created an extra contender for a Champions League berth that probably wouldn't have otherwise existed.

Both of those cases, Ozil providing a noticeable boost to Arsenal and Chelsea watching Lukaku help Everton remain in contention, serve as cautionary tales if Manchester United do come calling about Mata during the winter window.

As Ian Darke of ESPN points out, it could be a sign Chelsea don't view United as a threat this season, but that doesn't eliminate the risk.

It's understandable the Spanish midfielder might want to join a club where he'd have a chance to make a bigger impact. The competition for World Cup spots for the defending champions is fierce and spending a lot of time on the sidelines isn't going to do him any good.

At the same time, Chelsea don't want to provide the spark that could help Manchester United turn things around after a sluggish start to the Moyes era. If Mata is going to move on, they should do everything in their power to make sure it's not to a direct rival.

Otherwise, it's a transfer that could come back to haunt them in the end, whether it be this season or beyond.



    Grizi: We Waited and Punished Arsenal's Mistakes

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Grizi: We Waited and Punished Arsenal's Mistakes

    MARCA in English
    via MARCA in English

    Simeone Faces 2nd Leg Ban

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Simeone Faces 2nd Leg Ban

    Tom Sunderland
    via Bleacher Report

    Mourinho Blames Chelsea for Selling Salah

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Mourinho Blames Chelsea for Selling Salah

    Marseille Earn Huge 1st Leg Win Over Salzburg

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Marseille Earn Huge 1st Leg Win Over Salzburg

    BBC Sport
    via BBC Sport