Manchester United confirm signing of Juan Mata for club record £37.1 million
Spanish international hoping to revitalize career after falling out of favor at Mourinho's Chelsea
Mata: "United is the perfect place for me and I am excited at the chance."
Moyes: " I know our fans have admired Juan for some time now."
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
After a humbling League Cup defeat at the hands of lowly Sunderland, and with the reigning English champions a distant seventh in the Premier League table, Manchester United have broken the bank to bring in Juan Mata from Chelsea.
A club record fee of £37.1 million ($61 million) was confirmed by the club late Saturday after the Spaniard passed a medical and agreed personal terms.
The fee trumps £30.75 million ($51 million) that United paid Tottenham Hotspur for Dimitar Berbatov in 2008.
In a statement released on Manchester United’s official website Mata said: “I am thrilled to be joining United. I have enjoyed some very happy years at Chelsea but the time has come for a new challenge.
“United is the perfect place for me and I am excited at the chance I have to be part of the next phase in the club’s history.
“Chelsea is a top club and I have many friends there but you cannot turn down the chance to join Manchester United. I look forward to helping the manager and the team be successful in the coming years.”
Manager David Moyes praised the 25-year-old describing him as “one of the finest playmakers in the game today” while drawing attention to his impressive haul of 32 goals and 28 assists during his previous two seasons at Stamford Bridge.
“I have been impressed with the excitement he has shown to be part of the new Manchester United. I know our fans have admired Juan for some time now – he has always played well against us – and I know they will be delighted to see him in the red of United, starting on Tuesday.”
Mata’s signing provides a much-needed fillip for a beleaguered Moyes who is enduring a nightmare start to his Old Trafford tenure.
Moyes, 50, was the man chosen by the United hierarchy to replace Alex Ferguson, the legendary Scottish manager who retired in May after 26 years trophy-laden years at the helm having ensconced the club firmly at the pinnacle of domestic and European football.
But elimination from both domestic cup competitions and a disastrous defence of the club’s league title – United sits 14 points behind leaders Arsenal – have exposed the weaknesses in United’s squad and led to suggestions former Everton manager Moyes can’t cut it at football’s top table.
Moyes will be relieved to have finally secured the signature of a high-profile transfer target, following failed pursuits of star names such as Cesc Fabregas and a reported bid for Gareth Bale during the summer window.
United’s challenge has not been helped by injuries to key attackers Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, with the latter casting a shadow over the early days of Moyes’ by allegedly agitating for a move away from the club.
The signing of Mata will bolster United’s attack and the Spanish playmaker will be hoping he can propel his new team into the latter stages of the European Champions League and, in the process, secure his place in Spain’s squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
United’s participation in next season’s Champions League is in doubt, with the team six points off fourth place and the final qualification spot for Europe’s elite competition.
Moyes’ decision to plunge into the January market is at odds with the philosophy of his illustrious predecessor.
“Buying in January has seldom been a route we have taken,” Ferguson said in December 2011.
“Unless a player we have always been interested in comes along … it is not suitable for us.”
Chelsea’s decision to sell Mata has also been questioned.
Mata has been voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons, but he has found himself an increasingly peripheral figure since Mourinho’s second spell as manager of the Stamford Bridge club began in June.
The former Valencia player has started just 11 of Chelsea’s 22 league matches, with Mourinho deeming Mata surplus to requirements in his bid to win a third Premier League title with the London club.