Juan Mata could hold the key to success at Old Trafford this season but not in a way the Spaniard would like.
The two-time Chelsea player of the year has been forced to play a bit-part role for the Red Devils this season, following the high-profile arrivals of Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, and could now be used as a makeweight in Louis van Gaal’s bid to bolster United’s defensive ranks.
Mata has been linked with Madrid clubs Real and Atletico in recent weeks, with both sides alerted by the 26-year-old’s fall down United’s pecking order, but Valencia have stolen a march on the duo to lead the queue.
Now owned by Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, the La Liga outfit are said to be keen on bringing Mata back to The Mestalla on loan in January with a view to a £30m permanent deal.
This would allow United to recoup practically all of the £37.1m they shelled out to bring the Spain international to Old Trafford last year but it is Valencia’s personnel rather than pounds that could ultimately seal the deal.
The Red Devils’ need for established centre backs has been plain to see this season, with United shipping nine goals in the first six games, and Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi is exactly the type of player they need.
The Argentine has broken into the Los Che first team after impressing during a spell with Porto that saw the 26-year-old play 122 times and contribute with a solid 10 goals.
United’s current crop of centre backs are either unproven for battling for fitness and if the club is to regain its place in the Champions League – with a top four finish now on at 8/13 – reinforcements are required.
Next up for Van Gaal’s men is the visit of Everton and the hosts will go into the tie as 7/10 favourites.
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