Manchester United were mad to miss out on £21m midfielder

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During Chelsea's impressive 1-0 victory over title rivals Manchester City on Monday night I'm sure there was a degree of envy emanating from Old Trafford at the brilliant tactical game plan employed by Jose Mourinho's men, with one star performer in particular displaying all the attributes that would have made him an instant hero at Old Trafford.

Chelsea allowed £37m man Juan Mata to join Manchester United last month but showed there was method to Mourinho's madness during that City clash, with the addition of Nemanja Matic in central midfield providing steel and substance that David Moyes has been unable to call upon in his short stint in charge of the Premier League champions.

Matic was nothing short of sensational against City, proving not only an assured presence in front of a stubborn Chelsea defence, but a diligent runner capable of driving the side forward with key passes in advanced areas.

The 25-year-old completed 100% of his clearances to frustrate a City attack who had previously scored in 61 successive home fixtures, while also beating opponents in dribbles up field on 3/5 attempts in a congested midfield area.

Manchester United manager David Moyes has chosen creative impetus and attacking threat by sanctioning the move for Mata, but with his side's defensive struggles would surely have been better suited spending the money on a defensive-minded enforcer of Matic's ilk?

Mourinho was widely criticised for allowing Chelsea's player of the season for the last two campaigns to leave for Old Trafford in January, and time will tell if that decision proved to be correct.

As usual though the Blues boss is master of his own domain and initially sceptical fans can see the logic in the Mata move after 90 barnstorming minutes at the Etihad, with Yaya Toure almost completely nullified for the first time this season.

United fans will argue the Mata move brings guaranteed service for strike duo Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, but Moyes has neglected defensive additions for at least six months and with Champions League football far from assured that may well prove to be a costly mistake.

Moyes has scoured Europe for players throughout the last four weeks but must surely have seen or heard about a vastly-improved Matic marauding in Benfica's midfield over the last 12 months?

£21m spent on a defensive-minded midfielder player at the peak of his powers would have been astute business for the Red Devils, regardless of the persistent search for a number 10 in a more glamorous position.

As Chelsea march on towards title contention United fans are sweating on their place in the top four, a position which would have looked fare more secure had Moyes signed Matic or a player with similar qualities at a crucial point in a disappointing debut campaign that is threatening to lurch towards disaster.

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Nemanja Matic
Manchester United

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