United are going to make a club record bid for Mata according to widespread reports and it is the type of marquee signing that many feel David Moyes needs to make in order to really stamp his own identity on the squad, but Neville doesn’t think it fits the style that United have played over the years.
“Lucas Moura would and Olkay Gundogan and Julian Draxler would. They are young players who have still not reached their full potential and have the potential to go on to be world-class players.
“They are good players at the moment and that fits the Manchester United mould of how they have historically signed, more often than not.”
Speaking of the reported Mata bid, Neville said: “That’s a lot of money, 37 million quid, but they need a signing.
“Does he fit with what I would call the typical philosophy of Manchester United? I would say no.
“The first question, I think, is where are you going to play? Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are up top if they are fit so where are you going to play him? Are you going to play him off the left or off the right?
“We’ve seen Kagawa play off the left, we saw Kleberson play at times off the left, we’ve seen Veron at Manchester United move to the left because you can’t play central midfield.
“Maybe they have to change the philosophy and maybe that’s what David Moyes is thinking. Maybe he wants to play narrow wide players and maybe a three in midfield.
“They would have to change to accommodate Juan Mata in the way they normally play. They normally play with wide players. Sometimes they tuck in, but generally they have wide players and the thing for me is where is he going to play?”
It’s a very fair point by Neville because he is right – United would have to move towards a tactic based around inverted wingers to get the best out of Mata.
Over the years, United have always had a philosophy built around wide players. It is something that has been mirrored by Moyes at Everton. Would Moyes be willing to change that in order to fit Mata into the side?
Neville continued: “He’s obviously a fantastic football player, there’s no doubt about that, but one thing it does do, I suppose, is that David Moyes, Manchester United and Ed Woodward need to sign a big player.
“They need to make a noise and if they get him in it will attract potentially other players – and they need three or four players.
“What it could be is the start of something to lead to other things, but typically I wouldn’t say he fits.”
The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Mirror and The Independent have all run with the Mata story, so either the whole industry has been misled by a charlatan or there is genuine interest from United in Mata.
Either way, Neville feels his signing could mark a major transition in how United play and you can certainly see why he thinks that.