Thursday 12 December 2019

Would Manchester United be making a mistake in selling Juan Mata?

The Spaniard has been linked with a transfer away from Old Trafford, but Manchester United would lose goals and assists if he leaves
The Spaniard has been linked with a transfer away from Old Trafford, but Manchester United would lose goals and assists if he leaves

Simon Rice

The former Chelsea player only arrived at the club in January but there is uncertainty over where the £37.1m buy fits into a side awash with attacking talents.

At the weekend, the Spain international started on the bench but came came on to score the only goal of the game in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. The goal alone was a reminder of his worth to the side, but the 26-year-old ensured the message came over loud and clear by pointing to the name on the back of his shirt during his celebration.

Despite his timely intervention, reports circulating today suggest United are ready to accept £20m for the player. Both Juventus and Atletico Madrid have quickly been linked whilst a return to former club Valencia is a possibility.

But would Manchester United be right to let him go? Or would it be a serious mistake?

When Jose Mourinho sanctioned his sale last January, he was letting go a player who had won the Chelsea Player of the Year twice. The Spaniard was also a part of the Blues team that won the Champions League and FA Cup in 2012 and the Europa League the year after.

Many suggested at the time of the sale that Mourinho was crazy to let a player of Mata's quality depart - and particularly to a major rival. However, the Special One has been vindicated. The Blues managed to squeeze a huge fee from Manchester United and then go on to look a stronger side in his absence. Mata would have little hope of edging out any of the players who make up the attacking midfield assembled at Stamford Bridge that have propelled the club to the top of the Premier League this season.

David Moyes poses with Juan Mata following the midfielder's arrival at the club David Moyes poses with Juan Mata following the midfielder's arrival at the club 

Based on Chelsea's experiences, letting Mata could potentially be a catalyst for improvement. But what would Manchester United be missing?

One thing is goal. Mata has scored 9 goals in his 24 appearances (all in the Premier League) for United - a return of 0.375 goals-per-game. That is a better return than every other Manchester United midfielder who has been at the club since before the summer.

Marouane Fellaini, signed from Everton last summer with a view to him weighing in with his fair share, has scored just once in the league for the club in 19 appearances. The goal-per-game ratios of the other midfielders at the club are Antonio Valencia (0.098), Michael Carrick (0.065), Darren Fletcher (0.083), Ashley Young (0.123) and Adnan Januzaj (0.114).

These figures should be a concern for Louis van Gaal who could find himself over-reliant on his strikers to get the goals if Mata were to depart.

However, the Dutchman could take solace in the starts from Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria, who have scored five goals between them in a combined total of nine appearances.

As well as goals, Mata brings assists. He picked up six last season, created more goals than any other player during the 2012/13 season at Chelsea and was second in the assists charts the season before that.

With Louis van Gaal continuing to tinker with his team it's likely someone will have to make way. Were it to be Mata Manchester United would lose a huge talent, but as Chelsea proved, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a price worth paying.

Independent.co.uk

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