Man Utd big odds-on to be Mata’s club at end of January
Few would argue that Manchester United need a minimum of three players to get back onto a competitive level in the Premier League and at least one marquee signing in January would be a good start.
There is growing speculation that this will be Juan Mata from Chelsea, with a club-record £37m bid expected. The result is that Mata is now just 2/5 to be a Man Utd player before the closing of the transfer window.
Signing a player that is a substitute for a title rival is not traditionally the style of Man Utd and even Gary Neville is unsure on where Mata would fit in at Old Trafford, given that he doesn’t have the pace to play out wide.
However, Mata’s signing could bring a change in style, where the Red Devils no longer focus on wide players and instead switch to the more universally used 4-2-3-1, with the Spaniard playing behind a lone striker.
What this means for the future of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie is interesting, as there wouldn’t really be room for both and Mata in a new system. Rumours linking Rooney with a summer departure would certainly grow with Mata’s signing.
It is fairly concrete though that Mata should improve Man Utd hugely and given his Premier League experience, he would surely be a better signing than any overseas target.
Mata’s odds are 5/2 to remain at Chelsea in the window, but given his value and need for first-team football to aid his chances of making Spain’s World Cup squad, he is virtually certain to leave.
The spanner in the works of him joining Man Utd is Atletico Madrid, who are 11/2 to sign Mata in January.
Although Atletico may have more of a struggle affording Mata and not have the same draw as Man Utd, they do have some bargaining chips in their favour.
Diego Costa is the main one and he is certain to be a serious transfer target of numerous clubs over the summer.
Speculation is that Man Utd will be given first refusal on Costa and left-back Felipe Luis, who would be a worth replacement for the deteriorating Patrice Evra, if they pull out of the Mata chase.
This gives David Moyes a conundrum of what part of the squad is most important to strengthen and his chances of succeeding in his pursuits of other midfield options.
Attacking players will surely be monitored when Moyes heads to the Bundesliga to watch Bayern Munich face Borussia Monchengladbach, with suggestions that he will focus on Max Kruse and Patrick Herrmann from the latter.
The pair lead the Monchengladbach assists table this season and are the team’s most successful dribblers.