Football

Manchester United missed Mata opportunity

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Mata left on the bench at the start of the season (©GettyImages)
Mata left on the bench at the start of the season (©GettyImages).

Rumours were rife during the summer transfer window that Chelsea's re-appointed manager Jose Mourinho wasn't a fan of the Blues' Spanish playmaker Juan Mata.

And in the opening weeks of the season, the rumours proved to be accurate.

Mata, Chelsea's Player of the Year for the last two seasons, featured once for the Blues between the start of the campaign and the end of the summer transfer window at the beginning of September.

He failed to get off the bench when Mourinho's side played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Old Trafford towards the end of August - which was the point Manchester United should have acted by submitting a substantial bid for his services.

Reports emerged in July that Chelsea were willing to offload the supremely gifted Mata, who Mourinho felt didn't work hard enough for the team, if the offer was good enough.

But instead of testing the waters with Chelsea, David Moyes and the rest of the decision-makers at Old Trafford wasted their time pursuing Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas, who was never going to join Manchester United.

Once the Premier League champions realised this they panicked and came worryingly close to spending a fortune on Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera, whose stock has fallen quite considerably this season.

A bullet swerved in that case then, only for the club to later spend a whopping £27.5m on Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini. The Belgium international provides power but possesses little panache or guile, qualities which Mata has in abundance.

It's still mystifying why United didn't pursue the diminutive playmaker when they player himself looked distinctly unimpressed at being left out of the starting line-up during the opening weeks of the season.

But because Mata's a dedicated and committed professional, he knuckled down - and Mourinho is now reaping the rewards. Just look at the excellent goal he scored in Tuesday's Capital One Cup victory over Arsenal - a classy strike from a classy player.

He would have been a genuine star at Manchester United, providing chances for Robin van Persie and linking up with Wayne Rooney.

Sadly, though, is wasn't meant to be. Mata remains a Chelsea player and who would bet against him winning the club's Player of the Year award for a third successive season?

Topics:
Football
Juan Mata
Premier League
Manchester United
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