With the arrival of Radamel Falcao from PSG, many pundits have raised concerns over what Manchester United’s attacking prong will look like. Louis Van Gaal had hitherto hinted that he was working on a pattern of formation that will accommodate the trio of Rooney, Van Persie and just as you guessed, Mata.
Mata arrived from Chelsea in this year’s January window, at a time when United needed a marquee signing, a player who could provide flashes of brilliance in a team that was already on the decline. It is uncertain if the average Old Trafford faithful ever kept tabs on Juan before his arrival except for those who saw the game where he scored the winner against United while with his former employers. Although, one could bet that Mata is a talented player, the fact that Jose Mourinho declared him surplus to requirements at Chelsea was what should have raised a red flag or perhaps sparked up a critical assessment of the former Valencia man.
However, since Manchester United had been anything but active in the transfer market having only hired Fellaini at the last minute, pressure was piling up on Ed Woodward and erstwhile manager, David Moyes and so they dismissed all the concerns Mourinho raised and went on to acquire Mata’s services for what was the club’s record transfer fee before the arrival of Angel Di Maria.
Fortunately, Mata hit the ground almost running although his efforts wasn’t enough to salvage United’s poor outings last term. Despite his sleekness, one fact stands ever conspicuous, Juan lacks even the least defensive capabilities. Not that it fell within the purview of an attacking mid-fielder that he is, to track and regain possession, but as it is with 21st century football, a player is expected to be able to contribute to the all round performance of the team. Same way Rooney and Van Persie join the defense to repel the opposition.
Under Van Gaal, the Spaniard blossomed more. Striking 8 times in his last 10 games did a lot to pacify his many critics and further solidify the three prong attack that Van Gaal had designed. However, with the present loopholes in United’s defense, the team cannot afford to have a player who doesn’t help with defensive duties. If Mata were a top striker, he’d probably have gotten away with this but as a mid-fielder albeit linking with the attack, the shortcomings couldn’t go unnoticed and this was why Mourinho showed him the door.
Now that United have Falcao in the mix, Van Gaal will certainly favor Van Persie and Radamel Falcao upfront with Wayne Rooney behind them (In Mata’s place). It must also be noted that Van Gaal still has Januzaj who also hopes to play, at his disposal and all this has started to force the Spaniard down the pecking order and further fuel his despair.
So should Juan leave? No! but he will have to persevere. Of all the attackers, he’s the youngest after Januzaj. Falcao is on loan and the possibility of a permanent deal is slim, Van Persie ability is dwindling down and next season might not be really easy on the Dutch man and even as it is, Juan will still get a decent number of games this season. So if he works on his stamina so that he can engage in marking duels and also try to track back when United lose possession, he still has a bright future at Old Trafford.