Manchester United are expected to make a bid for the out-of-favour Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata in the next two days, with Jose Mourinho having the ultimate say over whether the Spain international leaves or not.
With a bid of more than £30m expected to be the very minimum for Mata, a non-playing substitute in the victory over United on Sunday, it will then be left to the Chelsea manager to decide whether he is prepared to go against everything he has said so far and sell.
Mourinho has repeatedly stirred the pot after United’s refusal to sell Wayne Rooney to Chelsea in the summer and it would require a thaw in relations between the clubs before the sale of 25-year-old Mata to Old Trafford. A loan move to Atletico Madrid is another possible escape route from west London for Mata.
Mourinho has made it clear that, since Mata’s demotion to a role as Oscar’s deputy for the No 10 role, he wants the player as part of his squad as they fight on three fronts in the new year. He would also require a replacement before the end of the month to maintain the balance of his squad.
There are few arguments in favour of letting Mata go, other than the fact that Chelsea have little room for manoeuvre when it comes to their Premier League squad. They have the maximum number of non-homegrown, over-21 players registered, 17, of which Mata is one.
Otherwise it would be a major call for Chelsea to allow Mata to leave, in spite of his marginalisation under Mourinho. He was player of the year at the club for the previous two seasons and has started 11 Premier League games this season, equal, for instance to the number of league games started by Fernando Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta.
The bid by United underline their increasing desperation to make a signing this window. The club had previously worked on the basis that targets like Atletico Madrid’s Koke and Arturo Vidal of Juventus would not come until the summer, provided they could be landed, and that this window may yet pass without a new addition. However, 14 points behind leaders Arsenal, and after a humbling 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bride, there appears to be a greater urgency.
United will not be panicked into buying their way out the trouble they are in, though the potential availability of the Seville left-back Alberto Moreno does create the opportunity for reinforcement Moyes has been looking for in that department.Seville are a selling club who have a €30m (£24.7m) buyout clause for Moreno that would be negotiable, with any interest from Real Madrid thought not to create a major impediment to the Premier League champions, who are facing the prospect of Europa League football next season.
United have put on hold plans for a promotional tour of the United States as they wait to see what their uncertain future holds next season. A three-week tour of North America in mid-July had been planned to coincide with the launch of the club’s Chevrolet shirt sponsorship deal, which is worth £45m a year.
If United qualify for the Europa League as the winners of the Capital One Cup, they would have to play a third qualifying round tie on 31 July, which would cut short their pre-season tour.