United to bid $63m for Chelsea's Mata
IT SEEMS the "Special One", the man who had touted himself as a possible replacement for Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, could end up defining the second half of their season anyway.
First, Sunday's 1-3 loss at Chelsea left David Moyes' side 14 points off the pace in the Premier League and effectively - though not mathematically - out of the title race.
Now, it appears any hopes United have of salvaging their season could also rest on whether they can prise Juan Mata from the hands of Jose Mourinho.
According to reports in British media on Monday, United are set to bid in excess of £30 million (S$63 million) for the out-of-favour playmaker.
The Telegraph pegged the deal at £37 million, which would be a club-transfer record for the Red Devils if it goes through. The record was set in 2008, when they paid £30.7 million to Tottenham for Dimitar Berbatov.
However, the Independent said that Mourinho still wants Mata, who was Chelsea's player of the year for the last two seasons, as part of his squad. Only last Friday, the manager was unequivocal on the matter, replying with a blunt "no" when pressed.
Releasing the Spaniard with just over a week left to find a replacement in this transfer window would also be tricky.
It remains to be seen how pragmatic Mourinho will be in wanting to keep a player who, it appears, now wants to leave in search of regular football.
Mata, who has started only 11 league games this term, is clearly concerned at what his demotion at Stamford Bridge means for his chances of making Spain's World Cup squad.
However, the Independent pointed out that one factor that could play in his favour would be that Chelsea have little wiggle room when it comes to their league squad. They already have the maximum number of non-home-grown, over-21 players registered - 17. And Mata is one of them.
For now, however, United are focused on the second leg of their League Cup semi-final against Sunderland today.
"We will try and do everything we can to get through," Moyes, whose side trail 1-2, told United's in-house television channel, MUTV.
They will be missing Nemanja Vidic (suspended), Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie (injured). The injured Patrice Evra is also a doubt.