The powers at Manchester United football club have delivered a gargantuan statement of intent by signing diminutive playmaker Juan Mata from rivals Chelsea.
It is a satisfactory deal for all sides. Juan gets regular playing time, United get a boost in morale and a much needed injection of creativity and Chelsea get a truckload of money for a player Jose Mourinho didn’t fancy anyways (whatever his reasons).
A cursory analysis tells us that the signing will lift spirits of a beleaguered squad. Mata will bring some much-needed inspiration in attack. However, it ignores the fact that the most vulnerable part of United’s make-up remains unchanged.
The huge hole that United present to opponents in central midfield is still a major, major cause for concern. United have basically taken a car with a creaking engine and horrible maneuverability, they have improved the maneuverability of the car and put a shiny layer of paint on it, but the engine remains suspect.
There is admiration for David Moyes’ apparent resolve to only sign world-class players. However, there is no harm in having a few water-carriers in the team – players who don’t necessarily have the biggest talent, but they provide a solid platform for the team’s flair players to perform.
If there are no marquee central midfielders available then its not the worst move to go for a decent Premier League performer like Morgan Schneiderlin, a player with a good all-round game and consistency for Southampton in the last few seasons.
Signing many more players like Mata will be tremendous for Manchester United, but the crux remains that they desperately need a central midfielder right now, rather than sticking with the likes of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley alongside Michael Carrick.
Signing marquee players for exorbitant fees may send out a statement of intent, but the remit of a good manager is also to have the ability to make the cute moves in the transfer market. Moyes can hardly be said to be lacking an eye for a bargain, with his more than decent transfer record at Everton on a shoestring budget. However, the Scot seems to have gone from one extreme to another. Suddenly, he only wants to sign superstars.
Moyes only has to look back on the 2006-07 season at Manchester United. United started the season with with Luis Saha, Wayne Rooney and Ole Gunnar Solskjær as the only recognised strikers. Increasing age and a long-term knee injury which had blighted him for the last couple of seasons restricted Ole’s appearances. Saha, though talented, was liable to break down anytime.
To supplement his thin strike force, Sir Alex Ferguson did not make some bank-busting move for a superstar striker; he brought in Sweden and Celtic legend Henrik Larsson. Larsson’s three-month adventure with the Red Devils was a huge success. Although he scored just three goals in 13 games, his overall contribution was very good.
The situation facing Moyes is much more difficult, but it does serve to illustrate the need to mix up the big money signings with cute ones. Manchester United have just signed a player oozing in class and creativity in Mata, now they need to be creative in the transfer market.
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