Juan Mata is the man on every Manchester United fans lips, as he struts about Carrington like a matador enticing us with his new cloak of red. But, the Spanish magician offers far more to United than just a creative focal point.
The introduction of Mata will surely see Moyes moving away from traditional wide men like Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia and instead adopting the more modern 4-2-3-1 style of play. This change will allow him to deploy a fluid front three in behind the striker, with dynamic movement and a chance to roam freely.
With Ferguson’s departure being such an important transition in United’s history, it is clear that Moyes is struggling to implement his new style of play without bringing in the specific players he needs to suit it.
But, with Mata’s introduction this could all change. Despite not directly addressing the Grand Canyon sized hole in our midfield it signals a change in policy that will surely see this void being filled shortly.
This gap lies in behind Moyes’ new creative three and even the best number 10 will still struggle if the midfield two in are sluggish and struggling to transition the ball from defense to attack with enough speed.
So what options do we have? The instrumental Michael Carrick is United’s key man and one of the first names on the team sheet. His role of breaking up play whilst still finding balls between the lines makes him an ideal candidate for one of the slots.
However, it’s relatively impossible to rely on a 32-year-old every week, as we’ve seen this year as he’s begun to pick up niggles.
Whilst Carrick may occupy one slot semi-consistently there is still one space up for grabs. Tom Cleverley is a youth product and you get the feeling the lad would run through a brick wall for United. But, the simple fact is his technical ability on the ball and eye for a pass just isn’t there.
Darren Fletcher is another who bleeds red and is a very diverse player due to his ability to shut down a game. But, he plays a very similar role to Carrick meaning that the midfield options prepared to have a crack from range or arrive late in the box are limited.
With Fletcher and Carrick not getting any younger, Cleverley stagnating and Anderson gleefully accepting the two fat ladies shirt in Florence, surely now is Fellaini’s time to force his Afro into the door.
The Belgian recently claimed his favourite position was a deep lying midfielder, so could be a decent option and heir to the Carrick throne. But, his sluggish style and inability to start an attacking transition have been glaringly obvious when he has played at United.
No doubt the Belgian has quality but United are crying out for that central midfielder who is prepared to force his way forward, support an attack and quickly turn a defensive situation on it’s head.
With at least one space free in midfield, Moyes has been popping up in Germany and Italy to gather reports on all of the Bundesliga and Serie A’s stars.
The obvious option of Vidal who is almost unrivaled in his ability to defend, break up play and quickly transition to drive forward, and who would be an absolute gem alongside Carrick. But, with a €50m+ price tag on his head it could be a stretch too far for the Glazer’s tight wallets.
Two other big names linked are Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan. The latter has been injured for the entirety of this season, only featuring once for Dortmund and would probably be better served joining in the summer. Toni Kroos however would be the ideal candidate to fill the Scholes-void. Being priced at around £30m, the German is energetic and dynamic, with many in Germany considering him a genuine like for like Ginger prince substitute.
Admittedly nobody will ever compare to the genius that was Paul Scholes and his ability to completely control the midfield space. But, Toni Kroos is possibly as close as we’re going to get without spending over the odds.
The final name being banded around is that of Yohan Cabaye, but at an inflated £25m in January, the French free-kick specialist would feel like something of stopgap should we miss out on Kroos, Vidal or Gundogan.
With all of these players comes a wave of cynicism. Fans stammer: “Why would he want to leave?” and “Why would they want to sell?” All of which are extremely reasonable arguments.
But, with enough money on the table and with contracts thinning out, now could actually be an excellent time to snatch a few players away as we have seen with The Chosen Juan.
So maybe, just maybe Mata could be more than just the creative genius that transforms United’s season in the short term. Maybe, the little Spaniard could be the lynch pin that completely changes United’s style of play and drags us into the modern footballing era.