A few years ago, I was working for a nationally ranked college basketball program (small college-NCAA Division II) and we were playing in the conference tournament against one of our biggest rivals. Earlier in the season, we had twice beaten this team by margins of 20+ points. The rumor before the conference tournament was that another poor result would lead to the rival head coach being fired.
Fast forward to two minutes remaining in the game and we are up by almost 30 points. Normally (according to the unwritten rules of the sport) the winning coach would start to empty his bench to give some of his kids playing time (the ones who don’t normally play), but also to ‘save face’ for the opposition.
I turned to my head coach and asked if I should tell our guys to get ready to go into the game. I will never forget his image or the words he said. He sat down, leaned back in his seat, let the most sinister smile creep across his face and said “f**k him”.
We didn’t take our foot off the gas for the last two minutes of the game, ended up winning by 30+ points and the rival head coach was fired a few weeks later.
Perhaps Jose Mourinho should have taken a page from my former coach’s book by kicking David Moyes and Manchester United while they were down.
This is not because I believe that the Juan Mata transfer will eventually come back to hurt the Portuguese manager and Chelsea in the end. The London club is getting a record fee from Manchester United and Mourinho obviously has no use for Mata in his squad.
Some people are saying that Mata is being sold because he will bolster United’s chances of beating Chelsea’s title rivals over the remainder of the season. Another theory is Mourinho simply doesn’t rate Mata and he could care less who the Spaniard plays for.
Whatever the reason, selling Mata to Manchester United at this time has thrown David Moyes and his team a lifeline.
To this point, Moyes and Ed Woodward have been unable to do anything in two transfer windows (aside from the signing of Marouane Fellaini). Questions were starting to surface regarding Manchester United’s ability to attract top class players to the club. The list of players who were NOT coming to Old Trafford was starting to grow (i.e. Koke, Pogba, Fabregas).
By signing Mata, Moyes and Woodward have acquired a creative, attacking player; who is a Spanish international and a member of the 2013 PFA Team of the Year. This signing will give Manchester United’s recent transfer failings a huge boost. It will also boost the morale of some of the club’s most disheartened supporters.
Mata is also the kind of player that other top players want to play alongside. Not only is the 25-year-old unselfish, he’s able to deliver passes to teammates in near-perfect positions, while also being a world class deliverer on set-pieces. Mata was a very popular figure amongst his teammates at Chelsea, as well as on the Spanish national team. His arrival at Old Trafford should entice other top class European talents to join him in Manchester.
Is Juan Mata going to solve all of Manchester United’s problems? No.
But his signing has relieved some of the massive pressure that had been building up on the club during the first seven months since David Moyes’s appointment. Imagine the chaos that would have engulfed Manchester United following their League Cup defeat to Sunderland if there had been no Juan Mata transfer. The media would be crucifying everything about the defeat to Sunderland. Not to say that United’s manager and players have not escaped a media firestorm after their League Cup performance. But Mata’s imminent arrival has taken away some of those potential headlines.
Let me say this. As a United fan, I am very happy that Mourinho has decided to allow the Mata transfer to go through. The Chelsea manager is being magnanimous by letting the Spaniard go to a rival club that is going to play him every game during a World Cup year.
Of course, Mourinho feels comfortable that Manchester United is not going to be a threat to the title this year. He also knows that United could potentially damage the chances of the other clubs competing for the league lead. The result of selling Mata really won’t effect Chelsea’s season, so why not sell a player he sees no use for?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the best players in the world, but the Swede didn’t fit in with Pep Guardiola’s philosophy at Barcelona. I’m not comparing Mata to Ibrahimovic. It’s just that sometimes talented players don’t fit in with a manager’s philosophy and are better served with other clubs.
But, stepping outside of my loyalty to Manchester United, why didn’t Mourinho take the opportunity to let more pressure pile up on David Moyes and his club? Why not sit back in his chair and say “f**k them”?
Just a thought.
But thanks, Jose. You truly are a ‘Special One’.
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