Fit, value, circumstance: Initial reaction to Mata’s potential $65 million United move

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That Chelsea would even consider selling Juan Mata to Manchester United speaks of the depths to which the Red Devils have fallen, but since we’re completely embracing the extremes of this post-Alex Ferguson climate, we might want to consider the scenario that’s emerged Tuesday evening. That possibility has Mata, out of favor at Stamford Bridge ever since José Mourinho’s began picking favorites, moving to Manchester for $65.8 million (£40 million).

Setting aside the story’s veracity (it is a soccer rumor, after all) and that eye-bulging price, Mata would be an ideal fit for a United team that’s lacked creativity all season. With the absence of Wayne Rooney forcing 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj in from the wing to play behind Danny Welbeck, the club’s lack of playmaking options has been exposed. While some would say Shinji Kagawa’s a logical solution, David Moyes’ inability to craft a role for the talented Japanese international underscores the need for Mata. For as baffling as Mata’s exclusion as been in Stamford Bridge, Kagawa’s has been equally puzzling in Stretford.

When Rooney and van Persie return, Mata can play behind each, though the Spaniard’s defensive liabilities mean Rooney would have to pick up the slack. But given the lack of creativity in United’s team, that’s a tactical risk Moyes and Ed Woodward should accept. While Mata’s acquisition might require more imagination in how the Red Devils set up their team, the potential rewards shouldn’t be ignored.

If United is able to pull off the move, it would be adding one of the most productive players over the Premier League’s last two seasons. During that time, Mata recorded 18 goals and 30 assists in league play. Expand the scope to all competitions, and the Spanish international’s scored 32 times while setting up 55 others between August 2011 and May 2013.

This year, however, Mata’s been lost. Mourinho’s offseason arrival cost him his starting spot, with the 17 appearances he has made producing only one goal and three assists. Also linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Mata’s been a constant fixture on this month’s rumor mill, and with his team, having put a concrete price on one of their most talented players, speculation about Mata’s Chelsea future is bound to increase.

There are two big questions about the potential move. The first is whether the possibility even makes sense, but given the outlet (The Guardian), two trusted reporters in the byline, and the level of specifics in the report, this looks like one of the more solid transfer reports. Short of a direct quote from one the deal’s principals, there’s little more you could ask from a transfer rumor.

The destination makes sense, too. For the last decade, it would have been difficult to imagine Chelsea and United swamping such a high-profile talent. United’s swoon to seventh place, however, puts the prospect in a different light. Instead of helping a fellow title contender, Chelsea would be casting Mata into the battle for fourth. With the Blues done with United for the season, there’s no chance Mata could hurt Chelsea’s title hopes.

source: Reuters
Struggling in their first season under David Moyes (pictured) Manchester United have fallen from first to seventh in the Premier League. Only the league’s top four finishers qualify for UEFA Champions League. (Photo: Reuters.)

The money, however, is the second big question. Should United pay a club record $65.8 million for Mata? As far as on-field effects, few players are probably worth that money, but the players who can change games come at a premium. Although he hasn’t changed a game in a few months, Mata still carries that reputation. Particularly if PSG are still interested, Chelsea can justify setting an outrageous price.

From United’s point of view, this could be spun as a somewhat cost-conscious move. If the difference between seven and four (perhaps no Europe and Champions League) is acquiring somebody like Mata, the transfer fee could be justified. Going out in the Round of 16 last year, Manchester United made $46.8 million in Champions League revenue. If obtaining Mata also decreases the likelihood of a sell off that would preclude qualifying beyond 2013-14, the 25-year-old’s cost could be seen as a means to secure a financial end.

But that reasoning further underscores how much has changed in eight months. In May, Mata was an indispensable player for Chelsea. Now, his best use might be generating more room between Chelsea’s spending and the Financial Fair Play margins. And for Manchester United, they’ve gone from running away with the Premier League to pursuing players who can salvage their Champions League hopes. Unfortunately, those players are extremely expensive, with their scarcity meaning the Red Devils may have to line a rivals’ pockets.

Premier League AT HALF: Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton lead

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Relegation scraps are on the menu this Saturday as a trio of bonafide six-pointers dot the docket

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

The lone top-end contender in action, Liverpool, has already opened up a lead at Anfield.

Bournemouth 0-2 Newcastle United

Ex-Cherries man Matt Ritchie has been lively for his new club, and assisted Dwight Gayle‘s effort to put Newcastle up, and Gayle doubled the advantage at the break when he tapped Ayoze Perez’s pass home.

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham United

The Irons have offered little in the final third aside from a Marko Arnautovic miss, and Emre Can nodded a back post corner kick besides Adrian to open the scoring at Anfield.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Swansea City

Glenn Murray‘s penalty kick went right down Main Street to boost the Gulls hopes of a home win.

West Brom 0-0 Huddersfield Town

Not much going in this relegation scrap.

Burnley 0-0 Southampton

Cagey as expected, with the Clarets aiming to control dangerous but finish-challenged Saints.

Watch Live: Five Premier League games at 10am ET

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Five Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Liverpool host West Ham, Brighton and Swansea clash in a massive game at the bottom, while Bournemouth welcome Newcastle to the South Coast, Burnley host Southampton and West Brom play Huddersfield Town.

The big team news from United’s game is that Paul Pogba has been dropped to the bench and so have several other first team regulars following their defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in midweek.

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You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham United – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City: Foxes fight back

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  • Butland own goal rescues point for Leicester
  • Shaqiri’s third goal in three games have Stoke lead
  • Potters remain in bottom three

Leicester City fought back to draw 1-1 with Stoke City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, with an own goal from Jack Butland in the second half canceling out Xherdan Shaqiri‘s opener.

Stoke took the lead just before half time with a beauty from Shaqiri but after Butland misjudged a cross to knock the ball into his own net, Leicester came alive and hit the post twice late on.

With the draw Leicester momentarily move up to seventh place on 36 points, while Stoke remain in 19th place on 26 points and are without an away win since October.

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A cagey start to proceedings in the sun saw Riyad Mahrez and Badou Ndiaye both go close from distance as Leicester had plenty of corner kicks but couldn’t get behind a solid Stoke defense.

Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy launched counter attacks when they could but the Algerian was off target on a few occasions as Claude Puel‘s men toiled without much reward in the afternoon sun.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Stoke then delivered a hammer blow just before half time as Shaqiri picked up a pass from Joe Allen, drove towards the Leicester defense and curled home his third goal in as many games to give the Potters a half time lead.

A perfect opening 45 minutes for Lambert’s side as Shaqiri had his seventh goal of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Leicester battled back into the game but Stoke almost went 2-0 up as Kasper Schmeichel‘s loose pass found Shaqiri and his long-range effort skipped just wide of an empty net.

The Foxes were then gifted a way back into the game as Albrighton’s powerful cross from the right was towards Vardy and although the English striker didn’t touch the ball, he did enough to put off Butland as the ball hit him and went into his own net to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Energized by the equalizer Leicester battered the Stoke goal as Butland saved superbly from Mahrez, then Vardy drilled an effort across goal which found Harry Maguire who hit the post with a shot.

Late on Charlie Adam‘s backward header let Mahrez race clear but a combination of Butland and Kurt Zouma kept him out and from the resulting corner Matty James hit the post with a header.

VIDEO: Thirsty goalkeeper concedes bizarre goal

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Rule number one for a goalkeeper: always pay attention to the action if you’re going to take a swig from your water bottle in the net.

Duisburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken didn’t pay attention and he will see this clip played over and over again as he conceded a bizarre goal in the German second tier against Ingolstadt.

Take a look at the video below to see the unbelievable scenes as the commentary team sum it up best with  their stunned reaction.