Belfast Telegraph

Juan Mata move is the making of David Moyes at Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

David Moyes is a changed man. It's amazing the difference a world class signing makes.

For the first time since he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer, Moyes is starting to look and sound the way a Manchester United manager should.

The arrival of the brilliant Juan Mata from Chelsea for a fee of £37.1 million has worked wonders for him.

Throw in the return from injury of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, and to go along with a transformed manager, United, with Mata (pictured) probing and passing with intelligence and intent, were a completely different team against Cardiff on Tuesday night.

No nerves, no tension, no worries.

I know it was only Cardiff, who are bottom of the Premier League, but remember United have laboured and lost against struggling sides before this season.

The 2-0 win was textbook for how Moyes wants to operate... early goal, total control of the game and a second strike on the hour making life easy. Three points in the bag. Happy days.

He strode away from the Old Trafford pitch smiling, satisfied and with a confident air about him – which is exactly how he appeared when unveiling Mata at a press conference the day before.

It was all a far cry from the previous week when after the humiliating penalty shoot loss to Sunderland in the League Cup semi-final, Moyes wore a tortured gaze on his face.

The poor bloke was all ashen faced and tormented as he trudged towards the tunnel having watched his players fail from the spot time after time.

That night against Sunderland was the latest disappointment in a long list of them... there had been shocking defeats at home to West Brom, Everton, Newcastle, Spurs and Swansea and dismal displays away to major rivals Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea when they had failed to compete.

It was little wonder following the Sunderland debacle that the knives were being sharpened and United fans were falling over themselves to go on social media and phone radio shows demanding the sack for Moyes.

The demeanour of Fergie's successor suggested that the pressure was getting to him.

Perhaps not crumbling under it, but feeling the heat nevertheless. When you think about it though, what did we all expect?

Moyes, after all, is not a Jose Mourinho. Had Jose been appointed he'd have breezed into Old Trafford believing that he owned the place calling himself 'the extra special one'.

He would also have made more high quality signings in the summer, immediately recognising that the jaded team Ferguson left behind needed a dramatic overhaul.

The experience Mourinho gained at clubs like Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid would have seen him hit the ground running at United.

With respect to Everton, where Moyes spent 11 years, they aren't in the same race so for the Glaswegian, with a Portrush mum, it was always going to take time to bed in.

Teething problems were guaranteed, though no one thought they'd be so painful. We're talking root canal work here without anaesthetic!

Only recruiting one player – Marouane Fellaini – in the previous transfer window was a major mistake especially when that player didn't suit United.

The fact that the canny David Gill left with Ferguson and another rookie Ed Woodward was getting to grips with the chief executive role didn't help Moyes, but it's true to say he didn't help himself by leaving transfer activity so late.

On the summer deadline day United, one of the biggest sporting institutions on the planet, were reduced to that hungry bloke who enters a supermarket when it is about to close and runs around in a panic desperately hoping to find what he is looking for.

Thankfully for United fans, Moyes learnt from that error and has done blinding business early on in this window signing Mata.

Mourinho says he has no regrets about transferring this creative talent to major rivals. Give it time Jose, give it time.

Mata is one of the best players in Europe, let along England, and will relish the Old Trafford stage. Moyes can't believe his luck.

Mata, Rooney and RVP on the same pitch should be deadly for United. I expect them to finish the season strongly. Whether they have left it too late to qualify for the Champions League remains to be seen.

Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea look certs for that already, leaving just one place for United to fight for.

Everton aren't strong enough, Spurs, as they so often do, will manage to mess it up which means Moyes going head to head with Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool.

After seeing Brendan's boys blow their Merseyside rivals away at Anfield earlier this week, making up six points on them might be too much.

But at least Moyes, with more signings to come after the World Cup, is now moving in the right direction.

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