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What the Angel Di Maria signing means for Juan Mata

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Manchester United are expected to complete a £60m deal for Real Madrid star Angel Di Maria in the coming days - which is excellent news for Manchester United fans.

But it might not be as welcome for one particular United employee, who himself was the much celebrated big-money addition at Old Trafford just eight months ago.

Juan Mata was the £37m January signing that was supposed to save David Moyes and Ed Woodward. He couldn't manage the former but while the Spaniard has scored an impressive seven goals in 17 Premier League appearances so far, the Daily Telegraph reports that he may find himself edged out with the arrival of Di Maria.

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Where will Di Maria play?

There are two schools of thought on the Argentine's imminent arrival. One, it's a fantastic signing and you don't miss an opportunity to buy one of the world's best players regardless of circumstance.

Two, it's £60m that could be better spent on other areas of the squad, namely to address the urgent need in central midfield and perhaps further cover in defence.

Whatever your opinion, it's happening and it will have important repercussions for the Manchester United squad. Louis Van Gaal has spoken at length about the club's "imbalance".

He has too many 'number 10s' and not enough quality and pace in wide-areas. That can be taken as a not-so-subtle hint that Di Maria will play as a winger - not in the attacking central midfield role he occupied for Real Madrid last team - and as a result, Van Gaal will revert to a 4-3-3 formation.

That's his favourite system, the one he's played with virtually every team he's managed until his Dutch squad at the World Cup this summer.

Manchester United have always played with pace, it's  part of the club's identity. Gary Neville expressed reservations about the Mata signing back in January, saying he felt the former-Chelsea player 'did not fit the philosophy of Manchester United.'

The Monday Night Football pundit has recently said he believes Di Maria's pace will help Mata - if Van Gaal sticks with his 3-5-2 formation.

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Where does Mata fit in?

Because if LVG changes tack, then Di Maria will play on one flank and Adnan Januzaj will come in on the other. Mata cannot, and will not, play out wide. We can take that much from his time at Chelsea.

Robin Van Persie will lead the attack, leaving Wayne Rooney and Mata to compete for the attacking midfield slot in the central trio.

Rooney, as club captain, has the obvious edge. His goalscoring exploits also help. Of course, Manchester United play more than 40 games every season, and hopefully more next term if they qualify for the Champions League.

That means there's plenty of opportunity for rotation, but that's not why Mata joined United. He joined to be the number 10, something Jose Mourinho refused to grant him.

Moyes invested big money in Mata, but like Dimitar Berbatov, the Spaniard's lack of mobility means he's not a typical Manchester United attacker. Van Gaal is not similarly invested in him. That doesn't bode well.

It remains to be seen how Van Gaal implements Di Maria but one thing is clear after the club collected one point from two games against Swansea and Sunderland. United need pace and trickery.

Januzaj and Di Maria will turbo-charge an otherwise gifted but pedestrian attack. Say what you want about the merits of Mata and the squad's fragile depth in other areas.

Reestablishing that attacking tradition is exactly what Manchester United need. Unfortunately, it may come at the expense of Mata.

Obviously, this is just my take on how Louis Van Gaal will rearrange his United squad when Di Maria arrives.

By all means, you may feel different so please leave your own suggested Manchester United starting XI in the comments section below...

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Topics:
Manchester United
Football
Premier League
Juan Mata

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