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It's now Mata of time for signing

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Juan Mata. Picture credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Juan Mata. Picture credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Juan Mata. Picture credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

MANCHESTER UNITED are "close" to completing a club record deal for Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata.

Mata was expected to travel to Manchester today to undergo a medical before completing his club record £40m transfer to the reigning Premier League champions.

A source close to the deal confirmed that it was "close" to being completed, with Mata expected to be in David Moyes' squad for the visit of Cardiff to Old Trafford next Tuesday.

Moyes refused to discuss Mata following last night's League Cup exit at the hands of Sunderland.

However, it is believed the 25-year-old has told Chelsea officials he will not be returning to the club, with the fee exceeding the £30.75million Alex Ferguson paid for Dimitar Berbatov in 2008.

United's morale could certainly do with a lift too after enduring yet another of those punches Moyes said he expected to take during his debut season. Although former Unitesd defender Gary Neville pointed out earlier this week his arrival would represent a change of tactic for United, who have traditionally relied upon two wingers, the knowledge that none of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani have sparkled under Moyes this season means ditching the concept would not be a hardship. In addition, it would prove to United fans their club was serious about addressing the sharp decline in fortunes experienced since Ferguson's departure, even if it cannot guarantee the Champions League spot they crave.

Speaking last night, Neville said: "This is a number 10 who plays in a wide area, and I'm imagining that Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney would take up the predominant roles, but he's a huge talent.

"He can spot a pass. They've lacked creativity at times Manchester United in the final third and he definitely has that. I think that this is a big transfer window for them. If they can pull in a big signing it would lift (executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward, it would lift the fans and it will give everybody at the club a boost. They need that here."

For Mata, it would end a tortuous few months, where he has left Jose Mourinho unimpressed and become increasingly marginalised, thereby enhancing his chances of making Spain's World Cup squad.

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Chelsea would bank a far larger fee than they could hope to attract from Mata's other suitors – Barcelona and Paris St Germain – and while it would be unusual for them to sell to a fellow Premier League giant, Mourinho knows United are not a threat in this season's competition.

Indeed, given United have played Chelsea twice but must still encounter Arsenal and Manchester City in the run-in, it could be argued Mourinho is strengthening his own team's position.

For Moyes, it can only be the start of what is sure to be an extensive rebuilding programme, that is not likely to be completed for another 18 months, with the Scot adamant he is not prepared to rush his work.

"I fully understand that supporters are keen to see us freshen up the squad with new faces, but January is a difficult month in which to bring people in," Moyes said.

"While we are actively scouting players all the time, a lot of the work we are doing now is preparation for the summer. If we can do any business now then we will certainly try to do it, but I will not compromise the standards required for a player that can come into this club and help improve it."


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