LONDON (AP) - With Manchester United in danger of missing out on the Champions League next season, Juan Mata’s arrival at Old Trafford for a club record fee of 37.1 million pounds ($61.2 million) is certainly an emergency move. But it also marks the first step in the rebuilding process of England’s most titled club.
After a botched transfer campaign last summer that was followed by the club’s lackluster first half of the season, United now looks determined to allow manager David Moyes the opportunity to build his own team.
Speaking after his decisive move in the transfer market that is likely to galvanize his struggling team, Alex Ferguson’s successor says the Spain midfielder’s arrival is only the first of many to come.
“I hope it will be the first of some new signings that will arrive, but more likely in the summer,” Moyes told Manchester United TV.
Following the departures of Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill, United missed out on its major targets last summer and brought in only one new player, Marouane Fellaini, who has so far struggled to impose himself and is out injured.
But to Moyes‘ credit, his efforts helped United to keep star striker Wayne Rooney at the club despite Chelsea’s attempts to lure the striker to Stamford Bridge. Now, with Robin van Persie hampered with injuries, keeping Rooney at the club on a long-term basis seems even more crucial for United, as the England striker has reportedly been offered a new contract including a salary that could be close to 15 million pounds ($24.8 million) a year. Mata’s arrival is expected to have a positive impact in persuading Rooney to commit his future to the Red Devils.
Voted Chelsea’s player of the year for the past two seasons, Mata fell out of favor under Jose Mourinho and was considered surplus to requirements in London. But his huge technical abilities and playmaker skills are deeply needed at Old Trafford, where creativity has been lacking since Moyes took over, and United fans are now relishing the prospect of his partnership with the club’s strikers.
“We’ve lacked a bit of creativity and imagination in the final third of the pitch and I really hope Juan can deliver quickly for us,” Moyes said. “I want to build an exciting team. That’s always the way I’ve wanted my football to be played and I’ve not known it any other way. I want to win and give the supporters something to shout about because I’ve not done that often enough. What I will say is this is the first of many more to come in time. I’m looking forward to Juan being the start of it.”
United, which has already been knocked out of the FA Cup and the League Cup this season, has also been cut adrift in the Premier League title race, where it trails leader Arsenal by 14 points. Although Ferguson insists his former team still has a chance of retaining its Premier League crown, Mata’s arrival is more likely to ensure the club finishes at least fourth and does not miss out on the Champions League. United is six points behind fourth-place Liverpool.
The absence of Champions League football at Old Trafford next season would put the club in a difficult position as the Red Devils will need to attract top-class players during the summer to replace senior ageing stalwarts, particularly in defense where Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are expected to leave.
“We’ve not done as well as we’d have liked to have done,” Moyes said. “We see this as the start. We have to look to improve and I’m going to try to bring in some new players to make that happen. As I said, Juan is the first of hopefully several.”