Before I start I'd like to point out that I still believe this deal is a long way from being done, and really doesn't make a lot of sense to me, for the following reasons:
1. Chelsea have just sold Kevin De Bruyne, so selling Mata would leave four players vying for the three spots in the attacking band of three. That's not enough for a team competing on three fronts.
3. United's standard system is a 4-4-2. Juan Mata's favoured position is centre attacking midfield. Unless they are planning on completely changing their system to accommodate him, he would end up playing either on the wing or battling Rooney himself for a role just off the striker. United's overwhelming need is for a central midfielder (Gundogan, Fabregas, etc), not an attacking midfielder, and I can't help wondering why they would not simply use Shinji Kagawa if they really wanted to play with a creative number 10.
4. Lastly, Mata himself. Though he would obviously see more game time at United in an all-important World Cup year, he would also be sacrificing Champions League football for at least the rest of the season due to ineligibility, and likely all of next season too with the way United are going in the league.
Anyway, with speculation at such a heightened stage, we must consider what Chelsea would do if the deal does go through. Here are my thoughts...
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The simple option is to simply replace Mata with another attacking midfielder who could do the same job. I've heard lip-licking mentions of Draxler but given that he's cup-tied for the Champions League and would only be a rotation option, this would seem silly. Mohamed Salah, though cup-tied also, would make more sense, as he would be far cheaper and would be happier to be a rotation option.
But really, Chelsea have so many attacking midfielders out on loan at the minute that it would surely be easy to recall one or two. Victor Moses has got the infamous and irritating Brendan Rodgers loan treatment at Liverpool, and would be a fine fifth choice attacking midfielder. Lucas Piazon is having a brilliant season at Vitesse, and even Christian Atsu wouldn't be the worst option. There's also good ol' Marko Marin at Sevilla, although he's so injury ridden that it would likely be a complete waste of time.
We've already seen Mourinho use the 4-3-3 system on occasion this season, and with a depletion in attacking midfielders he may feel it's the perfect time to run with it for good. Spending the £40 million on a world class central midfielder would set up a potential trio with Matic and Ramires, with Lampard, Mikel and Essien providing the backup. So who are the names, I hear you ask? Well, Paul Pogba seems a popular choice: young, gifted and a slap in the face to United to boot! Gundogan would seemingly be equally as popular, as would Pogba's Juve teammate Arturo Vidal. All three would likely demand the full £40 million, but would instantly walk into the starting lineup in a 4-3-3 system.
With the signing of Nemanja Matic, the blues addressed one of the two major concerns in the squad - central midfield. The one that remains is a familiar one: strikers. Torres has shown flashes of quality, Eto'o appears to be finding some form and Ba is a useful backup, but the signing of a world class striker would quite probably catapult Chelsea into title favourites. One name that has been mentioned is Diego Costa. With his goalscoring record this season, the Atletico man's reported £32 million release clause seems a very decent price, and though he'd be cup-tied for the Champions League, he'd still likely be an excellent signing. I'm very sceptical towards the persistent Falcao rumours, but testing Monaco's resolve with a big bid might not be the worst idea. Other names such as Jackson Martinez and Gonzalo Higuain have also been tossed around, with the former seeming a far more likely, if slightly inferior, option.
The most obvious choice, however, would surely be Wayne Rooney. This would be less about using the money from the Mata deal, so to speak, and more about organising a swap deal with Rooney coming the other way. Rooney would be cup-tied, would demand excruciatingly high wages and could come back to bite us with his disloyalty. But there's no doubt he'd walk straight into the first team and would fit in with Mourinho's ethos of high work-rate and tackling back. What's more, his position may well be threatened by the incoming Mata, so it would perhaps be in both United's and Rooney's interests to arrange such a deal.
For me, there's a clear priority. Though someone like Draxler would be a tantalising addition to the squad, there are more sensible (cheaper) options like Salah and potential recalled loanees like Moses and Piazon. The thought of a Matic-Pogba-Ramires midfield trio is mouthwatering. But with Hazard, Oscar and Willian having built a relationship in the attacking band of three, it would seem slightly silly to switch to a 4-3-3 that might be better used for "special occasions" rather than as a permanent tactic. Therefore, my preference would be to recall Moses as a fifth choice attacking midfielder, and use the big bucks from Mata's transfer to upgrade our striker options. Preferably by organising a swap deal for Rooney.
Let me know in the poll below what you would like Chelsea to do, and thanks for reading!