sport

Pallister: Fantastic to get Mata

Gary Pallister is backing Juan Mata to lift Manchester United out of their present strife.

Mata is expected to join United ahead of their Premier League encounter with Cardiff next Tuesday after the Red Devils agreed a club record fee with Chelsea for the Spain star.

It is anticipated the 25-year-old will undergo a medical at some point on Thursday and the move could be finalised as early as Friday morning, with Chelsea having already swooped for a possible replacement for Mata in the form of Basel winger Mohamed Salah.

While Chelsea have been quick to bolster their squad, United's need is far greater judging by their performance in Wednesday's Capital One Cup semi-final with Sunderland.

The subsequent penalty shoot-out defeat has left the fans in need of a pick-me-up as well.

And to that end, former United defender Pallister, who was at the National Football Museum to help launch an exhibition dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the Northern League, feels Mata is perfect.

"He is a fantastic signing," said Pallister.

"He has great skill, great imagination, flair and goalscoring ability.

"A lot of people can't quite understand why he has not been in Jose Mourinho's team after being player of the year for the last two seasons.

"We are delighted to get hold of him."

At a time when questions are being asked about the attractiveness of the football United have played under David Moyes, Mata also brings the kind of approach that guarantees entertainment.

"He is the kind of player Manchester United fans want to see," said Pallister, who won four Premier League titles and three FA Cups during his nine-year stint at Old Trafford.

"He has great imagination and can get people off their seats in anticipation of the things he can do with a football.

"Hopefully he can help lift Manchester United out of the spell they are going through."

As a teenager, Pallister spent 18 months in the Northern League with Billingham Town before moving on to Middlesbrough, where he caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson.

He was part of the side that flirted with relegation in 1990, before eventually pulling clear of trouble and then winning the FA Cup, the start of almost a quarter of a century of unprecedented success for United.

"That side was close to getting into a relegation scrap," said Pallister.

"We very nearly went into the relegation zone.

"People have to remember it is very difficult to join a club the size of Manchester United. Even walking into the stadium as a supporter for the first time takes your breath away.

"This is a work in progress - and everybody has to get behind the manager and staff."