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 Manchester United manager David Moyes.

Manchester United manager David Moyes.

Manchester United manager David Moyes.

ON the day David Moyes gave supporters some reason to hope by splashing out €50m on Juan Mata, nervous shareholders heard the news that Manchester United has slipped out of the top three money earners in world football for the first time.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are football's biggest moneymakers for the fifth straight year, but United, enduring a rapid decline under David Moyes, dropped to fourth behind European champions Bayern Munich.

Mata is expected to complete his club record move to Old Trafford later today after final details of the deal were ironed out between Stamford Bridge and Manchester. United officials remained relaxed about the situation, giving no indication there had been any last-minute hitch that could delay the move.

Even though some Manchester City fans fancifully have suggested Mata aborted his journey in the wake of United's shattering League Cup semi-final exit to Sunderland, it is widely assumed the formalities will be concluded soon.

That would allow the 25-year-old to train with his new team-mates over the weekend, before being presented to the media next week, possibly ahead of what seems certain to be his debut against Cardiff at Old Trafford on January 28.

Ineligible for the remainder of United's Champions League campaign, Mata is tasked with trying to help his new club secure a top-four spot, having dropped six points adrift of Liverpool. Yet, while hopes of retaining their Premier League title have all but disappeared, United could have a significant say in who does win it.

And it has not escaped Arsene Wenger's attention that Mata will strengthen a United side that may have already faced Chelsea twice, but still have matches against Arsenal and Manchester City to play.

"It opens up again questions about the dates of this transfer window," said Wenger.

"Some teams have already played twice against one opponent and some others not.

"If you want to respect the fairness for everybody that should not happen.

"I can understand completely what Chelsea are doing. They could have sold him last week.

"They do not make the rules, but maybe the rules should be adapted a bit more for more fairness."

None of this will concern United, who have endured such a poor campaign.

Arguably their latest setback was the lowest point of all, given they found themselves outplayed at home by the team currently 19th in the Premier League, gifted Sunderland a last-minute goal that deprived them of a place in the final and then, after salvaging the situation through Javier Hernandez deep in stoppage time, conspired to convert just one of five kicks in what must go down as one of the worst penalty shoot-outs of all time.

 

SAVAGED

It has led to Moyes being savaged by some fans, who bombarded radio phone-ins to express their concerns.

Others have been more measured in their assessment, acknowledging the squad left by Alex Ferguson was flattered in the extreme by a 20th championship, achieved by a massive 11 points.

It has created a situation where everyone, inside Old Trafford and out, accepts it requires a major injection of morale, which former defender Gary Pallister insists Mata will provide.

"He is a fantastic signing," said Pallister. "He has great skill, great imagination, flair and goalscoring ability.

"A lot of people can't quite understand why he has not been in Jose Mourinho's team after being player of the year for the last two seasons.

"He is the kind of player Manchester United fans want to see. He has great imagination and can get people off their seats in anticipation of the things he can do with a football.

"We are delighted to get hold of him. Hopefully he can help lift Manchester United out of the spell they are going through."


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