Manchester United are entering into a period of new beginnings under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but find themselves at a crossroads with how they envisage running the club over the next three years.
Under Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, and in a landscape that has not involved Sir Alex Ferguson, the transfer motto, so to speak, has been to try and lure world-class stars with a bucket load of cash. And, for the best part, it has worked in the sense of attracting them, but the performances on the pitch do not reflect the money being spent off it.
One of the main problems Manchester United have had to face has been the arrival of Alexis Sanchez and his enormous wages.
Because of what the Chile international is receiving per-week, it understandable that other members in the squad – who play a lot more frequently than he does – are asking for astronomical pay rises.
Who Will Man Utd Let Go?
And so there are a number of players whose contracts are either expiring this summer or next and are under consideration.
Juan Mata is one player that has had the fans’ backing since arriving in January 2014, but his performances, it is fair to say, have dwindled over the past 18 months and his influence has become weaker.
Tipped to leave Manchester United for Barcelona at 5/4 or a wholesome return with Valencia at 2/1 with Paddy Power, Mata’s time with the club appears to be coming to an end.
The Spain international’s contract expires this summer and with the wage bill already rocketing, United’s hierarchy might just think it is worth cutting ties.
Unfortunately, and regrettably so for Mata, is the fact that he very rarely played his actual position, as an attacking midfielder. Because of the club’s inability to sign a right winger for several years, Mata has always been forced out wide, which highlighted his considerable lack of pace even more so and nullified his cute, attacking prowess in the team.
There is no doubting that Mata has the ability to play for the Red Devils or was a poor signing to begin with, but it is just incredibly frustrating for the spectators to see, week in, week out, a player being misused and quite obviously struggling in a position that he is not set out to play.
Whenever the Spaniard was allowed to return inside and play just behind the centre forward, Manchester United always looked better for it.
His mindfulness on the ball and spatial intelligence when moving into areas of the pitch were exemplary, as well as his knack of producing defence-splitting passes that would allow United’s forwards to get through on goal.
Mata’s Goal-Scoring Record
In Mata’s 159 appearances for the Red Devils, he has only managed to find the back of the net on 32 occasions.
While he has always been more of a goal-maker rather than a goal-scorer, it is noted that his goals tally would have been somewhat higher should he have been played in his natural position.
Under the Norwegian boss, Manchester United are expected to move away from the more ‘senior’ players and for someone who is turning 32 next season, it might not be the wisest decision to reward the Spaniard with a new lucrative contract.
If the Red Devils are serious about reaching the pinnacle of football again, then they simply have to move away from the sentimental side of how they operate.
It is time to bring in younger, hungrier players with a point to prove, rather than targeting the already-made-it players that are primarily focussed on what wage they pick up on a monthly basis.
Mata has been a wonderful servant to United and it would be near impossible for someone to say a bad word about him, but his generosity over the years does not warrant him a new contract if he cannot deliver on the pitch.
Manchester United simply have to take a stand if they back Solskjaer to turn the club around.