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United’s record signing poised for debut

Manchester-Uniteds-Juan-Mata-during-the-press-conference-3066739Had it not been for the surprising arrival of a diminutive, yet incredibly talented, Spaniard, tonight’s Premier League at Old Trafford would have been all about one man and one man only, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer returns to the ground where he so often found the net during his playing days.

As Ole returns as a visitor, there are few doubts that he’ll be greeted to a raucous reception for Old Trafford does not forget his heroes – unless they wash up on Merseyside and kiss the Liverpool badge, that is – and the Norwegian, for his dedication to the club first and foremost, deserves a hero welcome.

Ole’s reception, however, is likely to be eclipsed by the one that will welcome the announcement of Juan Mata’s name, were United’s club record signing to start or be included on the bench tonight, after completing his £37.1m move from Chelsea and being unveiled as Manchester United player on Monday.

Among the excitement that surrounded the Spaniard’s arrival – which, by the way, was totally justified, given the shambolic transfer windows we had grown used to over the last couple of years – one could be forgiven for thinking that Cardiff will be nothing more of a formality for United.

Unfortunately, while securing Mata’s services has undoubtedly lifted the fans and players’ morale alike – not to mention boosted the Betfair odds for United qualifying for Champions League football – it is now time for United to translate the feel-good factor onto the pitch, six days on from the gutless performance that saw United bow out from the Capital One Cup at the penultimate stage.

With two defeats in the last three league games the onus is on United to deliver, particularly given that Cardiff – who have usurped Sunderland’s tag of “United elsewhere”, given that Ole Solskjaer can count on Magnus Eikrem, Mats Moeller Daehli, Wilfried Zaha and Fabio – languish at the bottom of the table, having lost five of their last six league encounters.

The Bluebirds – or red dragons, according to that absolute numpty of an owner that rules over them – are however just a point away from safety and created plenty of problems to United back in Wales, when the Reds surrendered a late equaliser and threw away two points.

With Liverpool and Everton going head to head in the Merseyside derby – remember to turn the volume down on your TV sets, if you don’t want to have your eardrums lacerated by thousands of highly-pitched scousers screaming at each other – and Spurs hosting City tomorrow, United have the opportunity to close the gap that separates them from fourth place.

To do so, however, United will have to shake off the fear that crippled them since the turn of the year, when the Reds already poor form has turned even worse, inducing many people to die in their sleep as they were treated to the 5468th sideways pass between Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley.

Mata’s arrival is likely to shake things up, with the Spaniard in line for a first start, while Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Marouane Fellaini have also all returned to training.

Were Mata to make his Manchester United debut, it’ll be interesting to see where David Moyes will deploy him – in the hole behind the main striker, or alongside Rooney and Januzaj in a trio full of creativity and guile behind either Robin Van Persie or Danny Welbeck?

With Michael Carrick out, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Darren Flecther and Phil Jones are in contention for two spots in midfield, given Fellaini might not be immediately risked from the start, while Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are expected to continue as centre-back partnership.

United have got the off-pitch lift they so desperately needed, here’s hoping they’ll now finally deliver the goods on it.




  1. matrixvampire

    28 January 2014 at 08:34

    Jones is better suited for CB than Smalling unless he is match-fit.

  2. Julian

    28 January 2014 at 10:22

    The problem is we need a ball winner in midfield to support and cover for Mata if the latter is to have a central attacking role behind the strikers. Fletcher or Cleverly could play that role but they are not really ball winners as such. That’s why Jones has to fill in there. I’m discounting Felllaini as he has given little indication that he can tackle effectively or indeed contribute much at all as a midfielder. And to think we could have had Strootman for 10m less! Or not let Pogba go. All history now so we’d better move on!

    • Cal

      28 January 2014 at 13:00

      Fellaini really needs to come to the party. He said he wanted to play in midfield as the holding payer so he needs to prove it. Win the ball, pick his head up, and find a pass. That’s all he needs to do. Assuming we play 4-2-3-1, he can find any of three players.

  3. The_Philosopher

    28 January 2014 at 11:06

    Ole Gunnar Solksjaer for Man Utd manager in summer of 2015!

    • The_Philosopher

      28 January 2014 at 11:09

      @The_Philosopher: I hope we can play some semi decent stuff and hang on to RVP and Mata and Kagawa until then.

      But come the summer of 2015. I’m looking forward to Solksjaer taking over from the limited Moyes.

      Looks like Fabio and Zaha are going to Cardiff on loan.

      Hopefully he can use them and grow them there until his second coming in 2015.

      • Cal

        28 January 2014 at 13:06

        Give him a chance mate. I know his made some poor team selections and tactical decisions or lack there of but I’m all for letting Moyes build his own team and play the football he wants United to play. He started by assessing his team and making a great signing (I’ll be first to admit he should have done that sooner). So why not give him a chance? With 16 games to play, I still believe we can win the league, I really do.Might be very naive, but unless its mathematically impossible, there is always a chance.

        If we qualify for Europe I will be satisfied this season.

      • Warzycha

        28 January 2014 at 14:44

        @The_Philosopher: RvP, an injury prone player, will be 33 years old in August 2015. I love his technique and when each time he kicks the ball I admire him. But I don’t think he can play at this level till 2015. We have to make the most out of him this year so we can sell him and go for another hero. Maybe Cavani or Costa, I don’t know. But we can’t depend on Carricks, Ferdinands this year and in 2015 we can’t depend on Robin van Persies.

  4. Cal

    28 January 2014 at 12:57

    Looking forward to tonight’s game. Finally, Moyes is starting to clean up some fringe players and build his own team. Fully behind Moye’s. We can do this!

  5. Cal

    28 January 2014 at 13:10

    People keep saying, Fergie won the league with this team, and that’s true. The thing is, with the exception of a few players, the majority of the squad Moyes inherited are average. Why did Fergie win the league then? His a far better man manager than many a manager, he has the ability of drawing water from a rock, that’s why we won the league!

    looking forward to tonight’s game, I reckon our season starts today. It’s vital we pick up 3 points and get everyone United again.

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