Juan Mata makeweight in winter Man Utd Kevin Strootman swoop?
Manchester United, 12/1 Premier League title chances with Coral, could axe Spain international Juan Mata following the capture of Angel Di Maria, as rumours persist that manager Louis van Gaal will go into the winter window to sign Kevin Strootman.
Brought to Old Trafford this January by Red Devils predecessor David Moyes, World Cup and European Championship winner Mata, 26, may now be surplus to requirements.
Much has been written about how United will line up, but Van Gaal is unable to accommodate everyone in their favoured positions ahead of the Old Trafford encounter with QPR.
Mata is competing with Di Maria, fellow summer signing Radamel Falcao, youngster Adnan Januzaj, Red Devils captain Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for a starting spot. All six cannot start.
Natural wide men Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have had to play in deeper wing back berths as a result of the top heavy squad assembled by Van Gaal. This certainly suits the Ecuador captain more than the former Aston Villa and Watford attacker.
Dutch international Strootman, 24, meanwhile, was a regular under Van Gaal when he coached the Netherlands. This midfield anchor, who plies his trade with Serie A side Roma, missed the recent World Cup in Brazil with a serious knee injury, however.
In light of that, there was no way Strootman could pass a medical at Old Trafford this summer, meaning Van Gaal has always faced a wait to bring him to the Premier League.
Roma have plenty of holding midfield options, having had to plan cover for Strootman’s injury. Club stalwart Daniele De Rossi joins former Barcelona player Seydou Keita, and Belgium international Radja Nainggolan among the deeper-lying options open to Rudi Garcia.
Further forward, however, the Eternal City outfit are lacking talent in their prime. Argentine attacker Juan Iturbe, Serbia counterpart Adem Ljajic, and Italian pair Mattia Destro and Alessandro Florenzi are all in the up-and-coming bracket.
Garcia also has ex-Arsenal flop Gervinho and one-time West Ham loanee Marco Borriello, as well as Roma icon Francesco Totti to choose from for his frontline. Mata would certainly add extra guile to this team and the number 11 shirt is vacant.
Stadio Olimpico side Roma curiously have four senior left backs on their books, with ex-England player Ashley Cole competing with former Fulham loanee Urby Emanuelson, Greece international Jose Holebas and fellow 30-something Federico Balzaretti to start.
Mata would thus reunite with his old Chelsea teammate in Rome, if he used as a makeweight to lure Strootman to Manchester. United are odds-on at 10/11 to finish in the top four and bring Champions League football back to Old Trafford.