Manchester United's rumoured interest in making a transfer for Chelsea's Juan Mata looks to be rolling once more. ESPN's reliable and well-sourced Miguel Delaney wrote up the story recently, and plenty of other outfits from the Guardian to the Independent have followed suit. We can pretty safely say that there's a lot of truth in this one.
First, the positives: Juan Mata is a good player, he'd improve our team, and he'd be very cheap for his quality at likely a figure under £30m. So far, so good. But it's hard to imagine a player of his level that's less suited to the club right now.
OK, Mata-Fletcher-Carrick-Januzaj is better than Valencia-Fletcher-Carrick-Januzaj. I can get on that level. But it also makes us even flimsier and puts yet another player out of position. Mata is not best out wide because he offers almost nothing defensively and has no pace. He's far better in the central role, but then we have Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj, Robin van Persie, and Javier Hernandez competing for those two positions of striker and number 10. To say nothing of the imminent arrival of Jesse Lingard and, potentially now, probably later, Nick Powell.
While there's a strong argument to be made that such a signing can elevate United, is Mata really world-class? He was superb last season but he's been nowhere near that this year. Many people will blame that on his treatment at the hands of Mourinho, but are players of that level really supposed to be so mentally fragile? We already have one player who can't handle it when he's dropped, deserved or not, and god knows how many points that's cost us in recent years. Apart from anything else, it's just debatable whether he suits us. We need dynamism and drive - the sort which Mata failed to provide in his last game before being hauled off for Oscar, who promptly showed him up and won the game.
Then there's also the issue that Chelsea are extremely unlikely to sell to us. Paris Saint-Germain's interest could well be genuine, and even though they're pretty much the only club that could less use Mata than us, the Stamford Bridge bosses are going to be far more inclined to see him shipped off to exile in Paris, like Roman Polanski, except just having a slightly poor season and not really fitting a system rather than doing anything dodgy or illegal.
The worrying thing is that we're even interested at all - the rumour mill has really dried up around United of late, and while it's possible we could have acknowledged we need a major overhaul and are therefore sounding out as many targets of the requisite quality as possible, there's the slight suspicion that we're in this window once again without a clear plan. We really need to get something wrapped up soon.