Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

United pays Chelsea big bucks for Mata, hopes it helps

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MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United smashed the club's transfer record to sign Juan Mata from Chelsea for 37.1 million pounds ($61.2 million) Saturday, giving the beleaguered English Premier League champions a major lift.

The Spain midfielder was deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea after losing his place in the team since Jose Mourinho's return as manager last summer.

The move, the most high-profile yet in Europe's January transfer window, will guarantee Mata is back playing regular football ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. It is also a statement of intent from United amid a tough period for new manager David Moyes, whose team is seventh in the Premier League and struggling to qualify for the lucrative Champions League.

"United is the perfect place for me and I am excited at the chance I have to be part of the next phase in the club's history," said the 25-year-old Mata, who was flown to Manchester by helicopter Saturday so he could undergo his medical examination and agree on personal terms.

Mata was Chelsea's player of the year for the last two seasons but has spent most of the 2013-14 campaign on the substitutes' bench, with Mourinho deciding to make Brazil international Oscar his No. 1 playmaker.

Mourinho granted Mata's request to leave Stamford Bridge in light of United's interest and having already found a virtual replacement in Egypt winger Mohamed Salah, who is close to joining from Swiss team Basel.

Moyes has made a decisive move in the transfer market after being criticized for his sluggish dealings in the off-season, when United missed out on the club's primary targets and brought in only one player, Marouane Fellaini, in the final minutes of deadline day. Fellaini has so far been a major disappointment and is out injured.

Mata's arrival will create a buzz around Old Trafford and excite fans who have seen United slip 14 points behind leader Arsenal in the Premier League, be eliminated from the FA Cup at the first hurdle and lose to Sunderland in the League Cup semifinals. Last season, United romped to the league title by 11 points under Alex Ferguson.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2014 B16

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