Where Would Juan Mata Fit In Manchester United’s System? Tactical Analysis

Where would Juan Mata (from Chelsea) fit in Manchester United’s System?

Its not every year that a player of Juan Mata’s calibre is available and up for grabs,  that too in the January Transfer Window. It might sound preposterous, but as reported by major tabloids, Chelsea are willing to listen to offers for the Spaniard, who has astonishingly fallen down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge. Very few fanatics of the Premier league will deny Mata’s exquisite quality, but many other United fans would wonder why they even require another attacking midfielder in first place.

Mata Chelsea Arsenal

There will be instinctive relucatance in the blue half of London to lose their best player for  last two seasons, but limited opportunities under Jose Mourinho coupled with the World Cup in Brazil, just a few months away, Mata is certain to inform Mourinho personally, as Chelsea wants, like in case of Kevin De Bruyne, about his desire to move in search of more first team opportunities, a player of his calibre, certainly deserves that rather than warming the sidelines. Mata’s frustration on the sidelines would be acknowledged sympathetically if he does move, and looking by way of things, a tense ride form London to Manchester does look possible.

However the big question would be how and where Mata would fit in David Moyes’ system. Surely, the Red Devils can’t afford to lose either of Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie from their starting line up to accomodate Mata. Yes, there would be confusion on how to fit all these three attacking minded players up front, there is certainly a solution, rather than just looking at a dark tunnel. Just have a look at how Manchester City have been playing under Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean ‘Engineer’ has a unique attacking formation, an idiosyncratic 4-2-2-2 rather than a traditional 4-4-2 line up. In the 4-2-2-2 set up the Manager’s manual will explicitly recommend on taking advantage the wide players, who will try to draft inside and the two forwards up front, with their intelligent forays will drift to wider positions. United will thus (according to the following snap) have Mata and Januzaj on the wide, trying to play their way into the middle,  and either of Rooney or Van Persie will flutter in the wings to drag defenders away and create space for the players coming inside.


This however comes at a cost: using the width of the pitch. Let’s assume United aren’t willing to sacrifice their wing play, here David Moyes will have to play Mata on the right and Rooney in the number ten role behind Van Persie up front. Mata, who is left footed, here plays as an inverted winger, comes up against opponent full back, as a result when he cuts inside, he has an advantage, going towards the full back’s weaker foot and momentarily creates space. If however United play narrow, Moyes will opt to field  Anton Valencia to strech the play or has to encourage his full backs to go forward at every opportunity. This means the central defensive midfield duo of Carrick and Fletcher/Jones will have to sit back and be aware against any counter attacks.


Moyes however needs to asses and use his far sightedness which system will suit Mata to the sluggish United outfit. I personally feel there can be variations of the 4-4-2 into the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-2-2-2, but Mata will be more suited to  a system where he can create more for his team and provide balls to the strikers up front. This is just one solution, we  felt worth sharing with our readers. Do you agree? You are free to slate us and voice your opinions in the comment box below.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

(Picture) Wenger Spotted At The Heathrow Airport

Manchester United Vs Sunderland – Live Blog