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Why Man United Shouldn’t Sell This Magnificent Attacker Even For £40m

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The off-season in the world of football is an agonizing one, indeed. The nine-month frenzy is often met with three months of gloom where the football fans are at a road’s end as to how to entertain themselves.

However, we do have the transfer window that lasts nearly the whole of the off-season and to make things exciting; we have the World Cup this summer. Since the World Cup is a big event and the quality of players is nothing short of excellent, the World Cup has a big effect on the events occurring during the transfer window.

One of the big decisions that have been made ahead of the World Cup is Manchester United appointing Louis Van Gaal as their next manager. While the speculation had been doing the rounds for quite some time, the official confirmation proved to be a thorn at the back of newly-signed Spaniard Juan Mata.

The past few days have been rife with rumours of Juan Mata heading for a shock exit just half a season after signing. The reasons for such a statement have been straightforward, according to the media.

First off, Barcelona are interested in Juan Mata and are willing to pay£40m as per reports from Express, to secure his services. Secondly, there has been the rumour that Van Gaal is looking to offload Mata because of his liking towards hard-working, a category under which Mata can stake no claim. That was more or less the reason why Mourinho sold him and LVG is supposedly similar to Mourinho’s system of managing.

This is highly based on the fact that Mourinho learnt the tricks of the trade from LVG under whom he worked as an assistant in Camp Nou. However, LVG, in all conscience should make no such effort to exclude Mata from the team and potentially sell him.

Buying Mata, although for a record fee, was one of the few positives of the David Moyes’ era. Despite the fact that it was construed as a move with no second thoughts at the beginning, people have seen the ingenuity of Mata and have appreciated Moyes’ boldness in doing such a move, something he has failed to express on the field.

Juan Mata, is a former player of Real Madrid’s Castilla and is a member of the highly reputed Spain squad. Upon his arrival at Chelsea, he was greeted with as one of the best young talents in Europe. True to those praises, he clearly showed his class in what turned out to be a disastrous Premier League campaign for Chelsea, much like the one Manchester United just got with. However, their sixth place finish did indeed come with a bigger consolation as they won their first ever Champions League after defeating Bayern Munich in the final. Throughout the season, the club had come under strong criticism for an unethical playing and failing to stop their madness of sacking managers.

Mata was voted the best player of the season by the players and fans alike. He had carried the team throughout and was fully deserving of the award. As the next season came along, Chelsea failed to make a mark on the Premier League yet again as Sir Alex Ferguson retired into the shadows with one final title.

But, Rafael Benitez, despite generating heat from the fans managed to steer Chelsea to a victory in the Europa League. At the start of that season, Chelsea had signed supposed big names like Eden Hazard and Oscar. But, their shortcomings in the first season were far from highlighted as Mata stole the show once again.

For the second year in a row, Mata was Chelsea’s player of the season, and looked set for a long career at Chelsea. But, to his discredit, the returning Mourinho had other plans. He chose to go for hard-working players over those who possessed flair. In short, Oscar got the nod ahead of Mata in the attacking midfield position and Mata was relegated to the bench.

As Mata’s game time started drying up, he completed a record move to Manchester United this January.  Since his arrival, Mata has made 5 assists and scored six goals in 15 appearances, all of which were in the Premier League as United had either been out of the other competitions or he was cup tied.

In an otherwise perfect plan, the obvious flaw was the position in which Mata would play. David Moyes might not have been accomplished in the field of managing with trophies to brag, but to any lay man, the concept of getting the best out of a player is simple. You play him in his natural position. The one place where he performs best and can make a difference in the team. Obviously, for Mata this one was the attacking midfield role behind the striker, essentially a trequartista.

The situation in Manchester United was and is such that Rooney occupies the same position. Although he is a natural striker, his versatility and the arrival of Robin Van Persie has led to him being pushed back. While there were rumours of Van Persie leaving, the arrival of LVG makes sure that it won’t happen.

Van Persie is a favourite of LVG, who is currently managing the Netherlands team headed by Van Persie. And the reports have suggested that Van Persie will be made the captain, a move which ensures that he is a regular starter. Judging by that, some small thoughts would suggest moving Mata to the right wing and allowing him to interchange with Rooney and drop deep. Since this was more or less his position at Chelsea that decision has been experimented with poor results.

What one must understand is that Chelsea had a front three of Oscar, Mata and Hazard whose main notion was to interchange. They were built to play in such a way that it benefitted all the three of them without really bringing to fore any of their faults. However, United are a team that have for long placed emphasis on wing play. Mata, is a player who isn’t nearly suited to be a winger in the Premier League. And United’s front three in all likelihood is expected to be completed with Adnan Januzaj on the left.

As we would have seen, Januzaj is an excellent prospect but his abilities have a limit. Although he is capable of playing across the frontline equally well, he isn’t good enough to interchange throughout the match. He does not move beyond his the center and transfer to the other wing.

Mata’s precarious situation could be resolved in two ways. One would be to make Mata play in his natural position. As seen in the past few months, there is a world of difference when he plays behind the striker and on the right side. His performances have been excellent in the former while the latter has been quite disheartening. So, the obvious choice would to accommodate him in the team suited to his needs.

The second would be to sell him. Now, that would be a poor decision and would be a negative to someone who is set to rebuild the squad. Louis van Gaal may have a penchant to hard-working players but in the end, you always need someone to induce some panache into the team.

And Rooney is heavily overrated when it comes to playing behind the striker. Rooney performs at his best when he plays the furthest up field with a winger to feed him crosses. Rooney may be appreciated for his versatility and adaptability, but in all respect, they are false beliefs. Rooney’s work rate at No.10 may look very high but they are in reality, rather useless. When Rooney tracks back, it is the time when United are struggling to get the ball up front and Rooney isn’t able to fulfill his need of having the ball at his feet.

He drops deep to attain possession of the ball and loses his marker, thus creating a huge space in his original position. This was one of the primary reasons why Sir Alex chose to drop Rooney in favour of Danny Welbeck in the second leg against Real Madrid last year.

And the belief is that Rooney has a high assist rate from that position. While 10 assists in 37 games is quite good, most of these are straightforward which require next to no creativity. The only benefits of having Rooney play there are that he holds the ball and spreads it well to the wingers. But, seeing as United’s wingers other than Januzaj have become less than useless, it isn’t really of much help, what Rooney is doing.

Mata, while in his natural position is a wonder to watch. His light frame gives him a low center of gravity which is highly useful when it comes to shaking off players in the final third. In that respect, how often do we see Rooney beat his man nowadays? Rarely ever. And Mata is naturally left footed, which means his balls and the origin correlate with that of Van Persie’s positioning. Although Mata does not have an ability of sticking to his man, he compensates for that by contributing a lot more in attack.

Mata’s lack of defensive work rate could be neutralized by playing Welbeck on one of the wings. Welbeck, unlike Rooney has the persistence to stick to his man. By saying all this, the underlying situation is such that Mata shouldn’t just stay but be the focal point of the team.

LVG should build the team around Mata. A player synchronized with Spain’s passing system, which is highly derived from total football, Mata would prove to be the key to LVG’s success at United. All the good things about Mata leave Rooney in a dangerous situation. Just having signed a big contract, he wouldn’t like to be dropped from the first team.

The official confirmation of Van Persie as the captain is yet to come which means there is all possibility that Rooney could be the guy. LVG could decide to move Van Persie into the bench and making sure Rooney is the striker ahead of Juan Mata. Van Persie could become the man to replace Rooney or partner him in big occasions or whenever possible with Mata playing second fiddle to no one.

Since I believe LVG should use Mata to the best, I would insinuate that Rooney is the striker, irrespective of who is the better choice between him and Van Persie. I can reason that out to the fact that; if history should be any indication, it is that Rooney gets what he wants.

And unless LVG decides to show who the boss is, there’ll be another addition to those pages of history.