Now here's a story I got to tell, about the Mata transfer you know so well; it started way back in history, with Woodward, Mata, and Abramovich.
So gather 'round, boys and girls, The Guardian's Daniel Taylor is here with a story and boy howdy, it's a doozy. It's a fantastical adventure of unnamed sources, cunning strategies, backroom mind games, a license or two to kill, and enough intrigue to fill seven John le Carré novels. Is it true? Parts of it, certainly. All of it? I'm not so convinced. Tellingly, The Guardian posted it as opinion rather than news. But you be the judge.
The first "revelation" is that the mysterious third-party intermediaries did in fact turn out to be nothing more than a fax machine, some out-of-print fax machine paper, and a Rolodex, as apparently United insisted on doing this whole business in writing. No face-to-face meetings or even phone calls, lest Woodward get charmed by our resident Hogwarts grad student or by our fantastic prawn sandwiches in the hospitality suite. Apparently there was real fear that just like in the movie Yes Man, he simply couldn't say no if Chelsea asked about The Hairplugged One. This cunning fax machine strategy left Chelsea so utterly dumbfounded that they didn't even think to counter with a written offer that would've included Rooney, had we truly wanted him. Today I learned that negotiations can be kept one-way streets as long as you use a fax machine. Genius!
The second "revelation" is that Mata was supposedly already open to the move in late August* because "he had picked up strong vibes from José Mourinho that he would be used only sparingly." Mourinho just kept hanging out over by the bar, throwing out the vibe and acting all aloof towards poor ol' Mata. But Mata, the ever-thoughtful person that he is, was keen on Manchester United because, obviously, that's the club that he just knew were the most beloved second club of every Chelsea fan and Mata was always quite grateful to Chelsea fans for the support that they had given him, so he figured this would be the most perfect way to repay said support. Unfortunately for Juan, Woodward didn't make his opening move in the summer because he still hadn't figured out his fax machine strategy, which had left him vulnerable to the Rooney Question That Must Not Be Let Asked. He really is quite good at his job, that Edward Woodward.
But wait; there's more! Call now and we'll include a third revelation for free! And the third "revelation" is that Mata and Abramovich are "almost like friends." Almost! Which is a gold mine (almost a gold mine?), really, because now we can start prewriting the drafts for all those future "Mourinho - Abramovich rift reopened!" stories. Journalism is so easy, guys! Almost.
There are further twists in the tale, but I wouldn't want to ruin a good yarn for ya. Although, I suppose we all know how this one ends. Still, let's reward Daniel Taylor's "investigative" chutzpah and give him a click. Even if it's more fiction than fact - not that we'll ever truly know. How does that saying go? There are lies, damned lies, statistics, and transfer rumors.
But hey, perhaps I'm too skeptical and securing the signature of a want-away squad player from Chelsea (about whom we apparently cared so little as to not even worry about actual negotiations) but still for a United club record transfer fee was truly a masterstroke of transfer window genius.