Explaining the Logic of Manchester United's Move for Juan Mata

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentJanuary 23, 2014

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There are a select group of players that could fit into any team. If they became available, it would cause a mad scramble from Europe's top clubs to sign them.

You know who they are. Regardless of needs or finances, every club on the planet is interested in signing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. They are so good that they would make any team better.

Manchester United aren't signing Ronaldo or Messi, but the premise is still the same with their pursuit of Juan Mata. The Manchester Evening News reports that the club have submitted a £40 million bid for the Chelsea midfielder.

Mata won't fill United's key need in the centre of midfield, but there's a debate to be had about whether he's so good that it doesn't matter.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 12:  Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson congratulates Robin van Persie following the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on May 12, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Phot
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United needed a central midfielder in 2012 too, but instead, Sir Alex Ferguson pushed the boat out to sign a striker in Robin van Persie—and an aging one at that, as he was 29 when he arrived from Arsenal

Ferguson didn't address United's most pressing need, but his team still won the Premier League title and Van Persie played a big role.

It's similar to Arsenal signing Mesut Ozil in the summer. It was thought they needed a striker and a holding midfielder, but they broke their transfer record to sign another attacking midfielder. 

Arsene Wenger already had Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That didn't matter to Wenger, though. Ozil was, in his opinion, so good that he could overlook Arsenal's key needs. Sitting atop the Premier League in January, his decision has been vindicated.

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Moyes hinted in the summer that he didn't enter the race for Ozil because he wasn't the type of player United needed. “We weren’t close to buying him but something was mooted a little bit before that,” Moyes later said, per the Daily Mirror. “We didn’t need that position at the time. I didn’t even say it was an interest; it was put to us and it was just something at the time we didn’t need.

Mata and Ozil, while not identical, have similar styles and qualities. So what has changed?

Ultimately, it's down to results. Transition or not, there will have been few voices in the boardroom or in the stands worried that United could finish as low as seventh in Moyes' first season.

Out of the title race, the FA Cup, the Capital One Cup and with only an outside chance of winning the Champions League, Moyes must finish in the top four to maintain any measure of respectability in his first year.

A United side that can include Mata are better equipped to do that.

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He is undoubtedly a quality footballer. He won Chelsea's Player of the Year award two years in a row and, at 25, is reaching his peak. For now, we can overlook where he's going to play when Wayne Rooney and Van Persie are fit given Moyes' preference for his variation of 4-4-2.

If his arrival is the start of Moyes' major rebuild that will stretch into next summer, Mata's arrival could be inspired. A team which includes him, Rooney and Van Persie will almost certainly create and score goals.

However, it's unlikely Mata will be able to cover all the cracks. And Moyes still needs a midfielder.