22 January 2014

Man U moves for Mata; does this up the ante for Arsène?

Numerous reports suggest that Juan Mata has agreed to move to Manchester United, in the process laying waste to two notions about the January transfer-window, perhaps altering the balance of power in the Prem, and begging questions about how Arsène will respond, if at all. Let's deal with these in order of importance, then, as there are a mere eight days left in the transfer-window.

First, the two notions having been laid waste to are these: one, it is well-nigh impossible to make significant signings in January, even more so in a World Cup year; and, two, any significant transfer-activity happens in the last few days. Should the Mata transfer go through, it's enough to prove that these notions are wrong. Mata is arguably among the Prem's most-creative midfielders. having been Chelsea's Player of the Year two years running, and a £37m move upends any preconceived notions about what's possible in January. Yes, Mata has been marginalized under Mourinho, but this say more about Mourinho's priorities than it does about Mata's abilities. Almost from the moment The Specious One arrived, he's undermined Mata, just as he undermined Casillas at Real Madrid. As always with Mourinho, it's about mind-games and manipulation, and shedding Mata might be the kind of power-play that Mourinho makes just to show that he's in charge. Whatever. I don't care very much about his mind's inner-workings. The transfer might be enough to revitalize Man U, launching them back into contention for a top-four spot, if not more. Such a move—in mid-January, no less—proves that squad-changing moves are in fact possible.

On the other hand, Man U did just crash out of the league cup, arguably its last best chance at silverware for the season. This could just be a panic-buy, albeit a very good one. With Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa, and Adnan Januzaj, Man U's highest priority may not have been another creative force in the midfield. Their more-pressing needs are probably at the defensive end, what with Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evra aging rapidly. It remains to be seen how Mata would slot in and how this would impact other players in the squad. He does not answer some of the most-pressing questions that nag at Man U under Moyes. As creative as Mata is, he does not bring the grit or tenacity that has been lacking as Giggs (not to mention Carrick, among others) has faded and after Scholes has departed. Is this enough to restore Man U to the discussion about who will win the Prem? Probably not. With sixteen games to play and a fourteen-point gap to cover, it's still too much to vault this Man U side to that level. It might be enough, though, to restore them to the discussion about who will qualify for European competition.

Again, though, I care less about what this means for Man U's inner workings and more about the implications for our side. If a fading Man U can sign the likes of Juan Mata, surely, we should be able to make a marquee-signing of our own. We've long known that we could use another striker to support, if not compete with, Giroud. It might also be nice to find someone who can play center-back or on the right. Seeing that a player of Mata's quality—already cup-tied in the Champions League and looking to prove himself to his nation—is willing to make a mid-season move lends just a bit of urgency to the talk of us signing the likes of Draxler, Costa, Mandzukic, or Tello.

It's not so much that we have to be wary of Man U overtaking us, after all, but we do have to look for ways to add meaningful reinforcements as we contend for the Prem title (as well as the FA Cup and Champions League). Giroud is slogging through quicksand, and Bendtner is injured and jaded. Please, Arsène, sign someone significant—for morale and for results.