What’s the Mata With Man United?


It’s still very strange to see United looking so…ordinary.  After more than two full decades of Sir Alex’s dominance, with a mountain of trophies in the cabinet, I expect them to win nearly every week.  And it’s killing my ESPN streak for cash run.

It’s not entirely without cause.  United have been without RVP for more than half of their games and Rooney for several of their last, and any team without two of their  best players would suffer – except, it would seem, the billionaires at Man City.

Regardless, though, the truth of the table is simple.  Manchester United aren’t who they were.

And so it’s time to welcome Juan Mata.  All £37.5 Million of him.  United need quality players and Mata is certainly that – despite proving an unneeded extra at a Mourinho-run Chelsea stocked with Hazard, Oscar, Lampard and William.

The price seems steep, but they are buying proven talent at only 25 years of age.  A two time player of the year with his now former London-based club and having already amassed 32 caps for the reigning World and European Champions – a difficult feat with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Busquets, Alonso, Cazorla, Navas and Silva with which to contend.  (Come on Spain, give England just one of those guys…Selfish!).   And though it seems an outrageous price, it was always going to cost a lot for Mata to stay in England.

But why United?  Is Jose saying he doesn’t think the Red Devils are worthy rivals at the moment?  It would seem so, as I don’t think Chelsea would’ve allowed this move to Man City, or even Arsenal.

And perhaps they will soon lament the fact that they took their rival’s money.

I see no reason why Mata cannot work alongside Rooney and RVP upfront, in perhaps a 4-3-2-1 form.  It lacks width, and will likely mean Januzaj will play fewer games if everyone’s fit, but he’s only 18, and with little first team experience it might actually do him good to not have the weight of Old Trafford on his shoulders so soon into his career.

Their work, though, should not be done just yet.  The Mata move has real potential, but only if they buy another solid central midfielder to work alongside Carrick; Fletcher is great, but needs to prove the injuries/illness are behind him, and I certainly don’t see Fellaini as the answer.  While he may physically resemble Yaya Toure – arguably the best EPL midfielder – he lacks maturity, he’s petulant, he can be rash in a challenge, and seriously needs to learn the “easy pass.”  Too often, Fellaini needlessly gives the ball away rather than keeping possession, or picks up an early yellow card and becomes a liability for the rest of the game (at least Scholes didn’t tackle in the first half; unfortunately, Moyes is stuck with that purchase).

The bottom line is this: while a step in the right direction, buying Mata is only one component of a difficult equation for Moyes.  Manchester Utd need a major overhaul.  Their fans know it, opposing fans know it and, more importantly, every other team knows it.  They are ripe for the picking for the first time since the late 80’s.  And while it may hurt, it’s time for the club “scrap the crap.”

What crap?  This crap:

  • Ferdinand – WAS an awesome player but it’s time to move on and allow others to gain much needed experience.
  • Buttner – Not Man Utd quality.
  • Evans – Back up at best. Seriously makes me nervous every time he gets the ball – an own goal waiting to happen.
  • Nani – So frustrating – plays like luxury player, without the luxury abilities. Ronaldo he is not.
  • Cleverly – Has considerably more average games than good ones. An EPL player for sure, but not at the highest level.
  • Giggs – One of the greatest of all time, but at 38? He’s still solid in Man Utd’s current squad, but wouldn’t that with the league’s top three.
  • Young – Typical English midfielder! Has all the talent but nothing between the ears.
  • Kagawa – Decent player with Dortmund, but seems lost in the EPL, maybe the Bundesliga is easier 😉
  • Valencia – He’s only 28, but my God he’s lost two yards of pace already, is it still injuries?  He works hard and has talent but if he has lost that pace for good then he shouldn’t be at United.
  • Anderson – Cannot believe he is still at Old Trafford.  Always seemed over weight and lacking enthusiasm.  Possibly had five good games in the last seven years.
  • Bebe, Fabio, Macheda – all less obvious players who are likely to/should get the boot.

Well it could be worse.  Your local rivals, Manchester City could be owned by a billionaire, buy half of the decent players on the market and become a monstrous foreign legion capable of devouring all before them.

Oh wait….

Author: Mark Graydon

Originally born in England, Mark Graydon is the manager of Wolff’s Biergarten and the owner of the Olde English Pub, both located in Albany. Follow him on Twitter @TheEnglishMark. Email him at