Manchester United Transfer News: Analyzing Club's Biggest Deals in Winter Window

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2014

Manchester United's new signing Juan Mata, right, displays his new shirt alongside manager David Moyes before a press conference at the team's Carrington training ground, Manchester, England, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. With Manchester United in danger of missing out on the Champions League next season, Juan Mata's arrival at Old Trafford for a club record fee of 37.1 million pounds ($61.2 million) is certainly an emergency move. But it also marks the first step in the rebuilding process of England's most titled club. After a botched transfer campaign last summer that was followed by the club's lackluster first half of the season, United now looks determined to allow manager David Moyes the opportunity to build his own team.(AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Some may have been disappointed with Manchester United's dealings during the January transfer window, but it turned out they did pretty well for themselves.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham—United's toughest competition for fourth place—did little or nothing to strengthen themselves in January.

David Moyes will also have Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie on the pitch at the same time very soon, providing a much-needed boost.

In a perfect world, Manchester United would've made at least a couple of more moves, but it's always tough to do that in January.

All in all, the winter window wasn't a smashing success, but it was a success nonetheless.

Here are in-depth evaluations for three of United's biggest January moves.

Juan Mata for £37 Million

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28:  Manchester United Manager David Moyes substitutes Juan Mata during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford on January 28, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Micha
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Before it actually happened, this transfer seemed to have the feel of the Wayne Rooney saga back in the summer, only Chelsea's and Manchester United's roles were reversed. There would be a lot of posturing, but at the end of the day, the player in question would receive a better contract, reassurances about playing time and ultimately stay at his current club.

Then United went and stumped up £37 million in order to buy the Spanish midfielder. It was the kind of positive action they had failed to demonstrate in the summer window.

The fee may seem a bit inflated, but Mata was Chelsea's Player of the Year in 2011/12 and 2012/13. At his best, he's one of the best creative midfielders in the Premier League. If you want to get players of this caliber in January, you're going to have to pay a bit over the odds, so there's no reason to criticize the transfer fee.

The only question is how Mata will fit into the team once Rooney and van Persie are both available to start for Moyes.

In Mata's debut against Cardiff City in midweek, Moyes opted for a 4-4-1-1, with the Spaniard playing behind RVP as a No. 10. He assisted on Ashley Young's goal to make it 2-0, and his performance was lauded by Moyes, per the Daily Mirror's David Anderson:

I thought Juan played well. He made some terrific passes for us. He gave us a different look about us at times.

He will grow and we will get used to him as well. Everybody knows what he is capable of and when we are in full flow and we are playing as well as we can, then he will be a big help to us.

When Rooney is back to full fitness, the manager will have a selection dilemma on his hands.

Rooney has been fantastic this season playing in behind the striker, but that would force Mata out wide, which is to his detriment. Perhaps Rooney and RVP can play together at the top of the formation, with Mata at CAM, but United have been at their best playing with only one striker. Or a 4-3-3 is an option, with Mata, RVP and Rooney up top, but putting either RVP or Rooney out wide may be a problem.

Given how much Shinji Kagawa has struggled at Old Trafford this season, you wonder if Moyes will run into the same problems with Mata in terms of failing to get the most out of the player.

Those small issues only knock the final grade slightly.

Final Grade: A-

Wilfried Zaha on Loan to Cardiff City

SO KON PO, HONG KONG - JULY 29:  Wilfried Zaha of Manchester United reacts after missing an opportunity to score during the international friendly match between Kitchee FC and Manchester United at Hong Kong Stadium on July 29, 2013 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

It's rather appalling how little Wilfried Zaha has featured in United's first-team squad this season. Sure he was coming straight from the Championship, but you have to expect that any 20-year-old is going to be a little rough around the edges, no matter what his experience level. You have to give him time on the pitch in order for him to improve.

In the summer, maybe Moyes thought that Zaha would be further along in his development and prepared to vie for a starting spot, and that's why he didn't immediately loan the player out.

But as point out, the young starlet stayed and has appeared in a minuscule 1.1 percent of United's league matches:

With few other options, the club had no choice but to loan him to Cardiff City:

It's a loan that makes sense. Zaha should get plenty of playing time with the Bluebirds, which is so critical to his development. Helping Cardiff try to avoid relegation will also put the 21-year-old in a more pressurized atmosphere. But after he helped Crystal Palace gain promotion last season, there shouldn't be too many questions as to his mental toughness.

The only problem with this move is that it took way too long for United to decide what to do with one of their marquee summer arrivals.

Final Grade: B+

Anderson Loaned to Fiorentina

Fabrizio Giovannozzi/Associated Press

Anderson has become a bit of a joke at Manchester United. Between his perceived lack of match fitness and generally poor play, the 25-year-old never endeared himself to the supporters.

The writing was on the wall, and the club loaned him out to Fiorentina on Jan. 18.

It made sense to try to offload the Brazilian midfielder, but the Serie A club may not have been the best option, as Adam Digby wrote for Bleacher Report:

All of which leads us back to Fiorentina, flying high under young coach Vincenzo Montella with a vibrant midfield at the heart of their place for a Champions League berth next term. Spaniard Borja Valero leads the way with David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani helping the Viola rank ninth in Europe’s top five leagues for pass completion (86.1 percent) and eighth in possession (58.7 percent) according to WhoScored. With Massimo Ambrosini and Matias Fernandez in reserve, space for Anderson could be just as difficult to find as it has been at Old Trafford.

I'll admit that I'm going a bit back and forth on this move.

Part of me thinks that a loan could work out in the end if he plays well with Fiorentina, as it could allow the Red Devils to sell him for more in the summer than they could've gotten in January.

But with La Viola's playing style, there's every chance that Anderson will return to Old Trafford as the exact same player, putting Manchester United right back in the same position they were before.

Final Grade: C+

Follow me on Twitter @JosephZucker.


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