Updated: Monday, 6th April 2020 @ 9:57pm

Comment: At £37million Juan Mata is overpriced but Manchester United badly need big-signing boost

Comment: At £37million Juan Mata is overpriced but Manchester United badly need big-signing boost

By Scott Hunt

Manchester United are currently on a well-documented downward spiral that has left the champions languishing outside the top four and showing no real signs of revival.

Crashing out of the Capital One Cup to Sunderland on Tuesday, in one of the most embarrassing penalty shoot-outs ever, was a new low of a terrible first season in charge for David Moyes.

With the conspicuous absence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for large chunks of the season, United have looked totally devoid of any attacking invention and are a team in desperate need of a fresh spark.

Enter Juan Mata.

United are set to confirm that they have signed the Spanish midfielder from Chelsea for a fee in the region of £37million – smashing the club’s previous transfer record of £30.75million for Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov.

That represents a huge outlay on a player who has an abundance of talent, but one who has spent most of this season sat firmly on the Chelsea bench.

On pure footballing ability, despite his obvious qualities, it is difficult to argue that Mata is worth £37million – even in the crazy football transfer market.

However, United are in such a state of decline that they need a boost and Mata will bring that to their flagging squad.

The Premier League champions also needed to make a statement in the transfer market. They need to send out a signal that they can compete financially with the other big names in world football.

Splashing huge cash on Mata is excessive but, given the level of desperation United have fallen to, it is money that has to be spent.

A new signing of quality and reputation can galvanise a squad and make the other players at the club raise their game as a result.

That has been proven by the impact that Mesut Ozil’s arrival has had on the Arsenal squad – transforming them from Champions League qualifiers to genuine title contenders.

And David Moyes will be desperately hoping the Spaniard can have the same impact on the football scores for his bunch of misfiring United stars.

Mata will provide class and imagination to the United attack and is a player of immense quality.

Where he will fit into the United side, when both Rooney and Van Persie are fit, is a difficult question to answer.

Wherever Moyes fits him in, he will be a valuable addition and will remove some of the burden on young Adnan Januzaj to provide United’s attacking spark.

For the two seasons prior to this, Mata was voted as Chelsea’s player of the year by the supporters, showing the value the Spaniard can bring to his side.

In 2011/12 Mata scored 16 goals and contributed 22 assists while last season he hit 21 goals and added 29 assists for club and country.

That is a return that United could certainly use from a midfield player and one which makes it baffling why he has been so rarely used by Jose Mourinho this season.

While his stats are impressive, £37million is at the top end of what a club would be expecting to pay for Mata.

The fact that he is coming from Premier League rivals Chelsea, coupled with the desperation of United at present has meant that the Old Trafford hierarchy have been forced to pay a premium price for the Spaniard.

He will be a hugely popular signing with United fans and will go some way to lifting the gloom that has descended on the club in recent months.

The signing of Mata is unlikely to be enough to turn around recent results with performances of late demonstrating the weaknesses that exist throughout the whole squad.

United’s playing staff need overhauling with many of the current crop of failing stars, including Nani, Ashley Young, Alex Buttner, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, needing to be sold.

It will take a vast amount of money to bring in the players needed to return United to the top of domestic and European competitions and the arrival of Mata must just be the start.

A new right-back and left-back, two new centre-backs, two central midfielders, two wingers and a striker is the minimum that is required to transform this squad into potential European champions again.

That will cost in excess of £250million if the quality that United require is to be acquired and Moyes must make Mata the starting point of his overhaul.

Paying over the odds for a player is a natural consequence of the mire that United have allowed themselves to fall into with their performances this season.

Mata is a terrific player and will give United a spark in attack, and while overpriced at £37million, is a signing that United and Moyes desperately needed to make.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald, with thanks

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