Juan Mata Transfer to Manchester United Surprises Suspicious Arsene Wenger

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Juan Mata of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on December 14, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger has been left surprised by Chelsea's decision to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United, but suggests the decision could be a shrewd tactical move by Jose Mourinho, as tweeted by John Cross of the Mirror:

Mata is expected to complete a £37 million deal to David Moyes' beleaguered squad on Jan. 23, per Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail.

However, many Chelsea fans are sure to be curious as to why Mourinho would sell one of their most talented stars to an English rival.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Juan Mata of Chelsea is marked by Stuart O'Keefe of Crystal Palace during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on December 14, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Although United are unlikely to challenge for this year's title, as highlighted by Gary Lineker's sarcastic tweet, it's still a huge gamble to sell Mata to the rebuilding side:

Stamford Bridge goers have adored Mata across the past two-and-a-half years, highlighted by the Spaniard being named the club's Player of the Season for two seasons running.

He racked up 12 goals and 12 assists in last year's Premier League, per WhoScored.com, while also playing a key role in the Champions League and Europa League triumphs of the last two campaigns.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Mata's departure could be seen as foolish, boosting a dangerous club in need of a spark to return to former glories. Alternatively, it may turn out to be a calculated risk worth taking.

Considering Chelsea have taken four points off United this campaign, in addition to the fact Moyes' men are out of the FA Cup, the two teams can only meet again in this year's Champions League—a competition Mata cannot represent United in until next year.

The Spaniard has the opportunity to not only affect United's season in a positive manner, but to provide Chelsea with an advantage. United still have to play Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City in the domestic division. If Mata helps take points off any, Chelsea are more likely to be crowned champions.

Of course, if this really is Mourinho's thinking, it's a call that could backfire. Should the player fail to make an impact, or Chelsea undo their own league aspirations, a Mata-shaped hole would be left on the Stamford Bridge bench.

Jon Super/Associated Press

If he happens to score against the Blues next season, that £37 million would begin to look a bargain for the Red Devils.

However, if Mourinho eventually manages to snare long-term target Wayne Rooney from Old Trafford, per Chris Richards of the Mirror, Mata's deal will be considered a softening-up gesture by the Portuguese boss.

With so many potential storylines and threads on the horizon, it will take time to determine which club Juan Mata's sale suits best.

Although Wenger and much of the English media believe he could indirectly land Chelsea a trophy, there is vast potential for Mourinho to be left looking extremely short-sighted.