According to Spanish newspaper AS, Juan Mata is on Barcelona’s wanted list this summer. The 26-year-old has only been at Manchester United for half a season after moving to Old Trafford in a £37m deal but despite that, Barcelona are being credited with an interest in him.
With the uncertain term futures of Xavi, Cristian Tello and Cesc Fabregas following a trophyless campaign, Barcelona are expected to be busy this summer following the lifting of their transfer ban.
Less than 12 months after a new manager returned to Stamford Bridge and did not see the Spaniard in his plans, Mata could well be faced with a similar situation if The Express is correct that Louis van Gaal, like Mourinho, is willing to listen to offers for the playmaker.
With United being firmly linked with a move for Fabregas, should United consider a swap deal if it was available?
Here’s how Mata and Fabregas got on during the season at United and Barcelona respectively.
Pass Success Rate
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored. *Per Match
In favour of the swap
Mata’s arrival from Chelsea was a bright point, along with the consistent performances from David De Gea and the emergence of Adnan Januzaj, in what was a desperate campaign.
However, does he really suit the ‘United way’ of playing? Deployed in wide positions as David Moyes attempted to continue the philosophy of playing wingers, Mata struggled to impose himself on the side. His quality shone at the back-end of the season, scoring six in as many games, when he was selected in a favoured central role behind the striker.
Rumours of a Van Persie exit seem ever more unlikely since the appointment of van Gaal and Rooney will also be chasing regular game time in what is likely to be a 4-3-3 formation, so could it be Mata who is surplus to requirements under the Dutchman?
By selling Mata and purchasing Fabregas, the 27 year-old could then play as a central midfielder providing the attacking impetus we’ve lacked for so long.
Would you swap Juan Mata for Cesc Fabregas?
In favour of the swap
Mata’s arrival from Chelsea was a bright point, along with the consistent performances from David De Gea and the emergence of Adnan Januzaj, in what was a desperate campaign last season but does he really suit the traditional ‘United way’ of playing?
Deployed in wide positions as David Moyes attempted to continue the philosophy of playing wingers, Mata struggled to impose himself on the side and it wasn’t until he was selected in his favoured central position that he flourished behind the striker with six goals in as many games.
With injuries to Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie being a regular hindrance on the club’s progress following life after Sir Alex Ferguson, Mata was able to slot into that role.
Rumours linking Van Persie with an exit seem more unlikely since the appointment of Van Gaal who rates compatriot van Persie extremely highly and Rooney will want a regular starting spot, so could it be Mata who is surplus to requirements under the Dutchman in what is likely to be a 4-3-3 formation?
By selling Mata and purchasing Fabregas, the 27 year-old could then play as a central midfielder and provide a threat from midfield we have lacked for so many years.
Against the swap
Whether or not you feel Mata suits the style of a traditional United, it cannot be denied that the Spaniard understands what it means to be a Red.
Upon arrival in M16, he requested to visit the club’s museum hoping to learn and be enriched by all that has happened before hopefully one day adding to it himself. Others players have also done so in the past including Ruud van Nistelrooy and Patrice Evra. To us fans, they get it.
The way he presents himself, the way he talks and the way he acts, Mata is more of a United player after six months than a lot of players ever are after years.
Nonetheless, that alone doesn’t mean they are good enough to play for United and without doubt, Mata is a world class player fit to wear the shirt.
The Spaniard provides an alternative to Rooney and Van Persie for Van Gaal and he’d be foolish to depart with the services of a player who scored 18 goals and provided 23 assists for Chelsea the season before last and actually has a better pass completion rate (89%) and makes more key passes (2.2) and shots (1.9) per game than Fabregas.
Furthermore, although the former Arsenal man adopts a position that makes it easy for managers to remove in order to change a system, Fabregas only completed 90 minutes in 15 of his 45 appearances this campaign. In contrast, Mata finished 57% of his matches.
The new manager may keep an eye on either player when the Netherlands come up against Spain in Salvador during next month’s FIFA World Cup but he’d be foolish to let Mata leave this summer.
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