x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Manchester United close to Juan Mata deal

Spaniard seems set for Chelsea exit as Premier League champions are in desperate need for a midfielder, reports Andy Mitten.

Juan Mata, the Spanish midfielder, seems to have fallen out of favour at Chelsea since Jose Mourinho’s return to the London club. Sang Tan / AP Photo
Juan Mata, the Spanish midfielder, seems to have fallen out of favour at Chelsea since Jose Mourinho’s return to the London club. Sang Tan / AP Photo

Manchester United are confident of concluding negotiations on a record transfer deal to bring Chelsea’s Juan Mata to Old Trafford on Thursday.

Sources at United were hopeful Mata would be introduced to the club on four-and-a-half-year contract on Thursday, but negotiations for the 25-year-old playmaker, who did not train with Chelsea on Wednesday, have yet to be finalised. United bid £35 million (Dh213m) for the Spain international who has already told friends and family that he is joining United.

Mata has regularly been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge since Jose Mourinho took over in the summer, with the Portuguese seemingly favouring Oscar as the side’s creative force.

United were heavily criticised for their inactivity in the summer transfer window when manager David Moyes made an attacking midfielder his priority. They failed to land two of Mata’s compatriots, Ander Herrera and Cesc Fabregas.

Many fans feel this had a direct effect on the team who have spent most of the season in an uncustomary seventh and eighth position in the Premier League table. United have not finished outside England’s top three since 1991, but currently sit six points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool, with Uefa Champions League qualification a requirement for any United manager.

Should the deal be concluded, as United are convinced it will be, Mata is expected to be available to play in United’s next Premier League game against Cardiff City on Tuesday.

Burgos-born Mata started his career at Real Oviedo before moving to Real Madrid in 2003 when he was 15. In his four years at the Bernabeu he managed to establish himself in the club’s reserve team, before he was sold to Valencia in 2007. He stayed at the Mestalla for four years, becoming a crowd favourite alongside David Villa, David Silva, Jordi Alba and Roberto Soldado. He also won the first of 32 Spain caps in 2009.

Mata has proved a huge success at Stamford Bridge since his £23.5m move in 2011 and he played more games than any other Chelsea player in his first two seasons at the club. He was voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year the past two seasons.

Mourinho has, however, used Mata sparingly this season, making him a substitute in nine of his 13 Premier League appearances this season.

Mata is keen to play in the World Cup finals this summer and it is understood that he felt his chances were seriously hampered by his lack of games for Chelsea. He can play anywhere across the front three in the 4-2-3-1 formation favoured by Moyes.

Rumours surfaced late on Wednesday of rival bids for Mata being tabled, including one from French champions Paris Saint-Germain, but sources at Chelsea indicated this was not the case.

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