Sheffield United v Fulham - FA Cup Fourth Round

1. Man United sign Juan Mata for £37.1 million

Everything at United is all supposition, stories being passed around in private messages and then altered based on new information as it comes in. The Glazers have failed in a bet on David Moyes gone wrong; the Glazers are playing the long-game with a slow rebuild under a conservative genius. United are unburning some bridges in the transfer market; United are putting on a January show to appease their fans and critics, and to save Ed Woodward’s bacon. All explanations are right, which of course means none are.

Anyway, the Mata thing is certainly real, but whether this was a coup on the part of Mourinho offloading overpriced talent, or simply a wise bit of business on behalf of both parties is unknown. It doesn’t matter, either. Mata has yet to rack up a single stat in a red shirt, and the club’s other targets—specifically Cabaye—are still figments in a tabloid writer’s imagination. Let’s let the future be the future. As for the past, you could do no worse than reading the honest letter the Spanish winger wrote to Chelsea fans as a thank you. Vague in the spicy details department, it reads honestly. These days, that’s enough.

2. And Wayne Rooney gets the keys to the kingdom at Old Trafford

How much is Rooney valued by the club under David Moyes?

Wayne Rooney was persuaded to change his mind about leaving Manchester United after being given the kind of privileged access to the club’s spending plans that Sir Alex Ferguson had previously denied him, the Guardian can reveal.

Rooney was given advance notice about the £37.1m deal to sign Juan Mata and has also spoken at length to the manager, David Moyes, and the chief executive, Ed Woodward, about their vision of the club under the Glazer family’s ownership, in complete contrast to what happened when Ferguson was in charge.

There’s a lot of narrative juice in here, specifically: is there any harm in letting a player into the boot room in the midst of a crucial January window? Is this is the new world order? Big clubs putting on power point presentations in order to keep their best and brightest from leaving them at an awkward juncture? I’m not into it, but I’m not privy to the details here, so I’ll let it stand for itself.

3. Oscar did this for Chelsea against Stoke in the FA Cup

I have a lot to say about this goal. For one, Stoke’s number one Asmir Begovic, a man who, as a Canadian, I’m obliged to find any and all opportunities to disparage, came in for it on the Twitter for moving two little stutter steps to the right of goal before Oscar whipped in that deadly in thing in the top left corner. Which is pretty damn nit-picky. What is Begovic preparing for exactly? Everything. He can’t even quite see whether Oscar or David Luiz ended up taking the shot until a few seconds prior. And then Begovic sees a Chelsea man in the wall (Schuerrle?), believes it could be a ruse, feints ever so slightly, which effectively ended any chance of saving Oscar’s whiplash. Total time this all took? Three seconds, prolly. Get over yourselves nerds. Free kicks are far, far more than just the kick and bend. Dancing, nervous keepers are all part of the algorithm.

4. It’s big guns on big guns in the FA Cup fifth round

The draw was held today, and if you have a modicum of interest in the oldest cup competition in the galaxy (prob not) than it’s a doozy. Games to held on February 15-16:

Manchester City v Chelsea
Sheffield United or Fulham v Nottingham Forest or Preston North End
Arsenal v Liverpool
Brighton & Hove Albion v Hull City
Cardiff City v Wigan Athletic
Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton Athletic
Sunderland v Southampton
Everton v Swansea City

5. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar returns for Schalke, scores

Hamburger SV 0-1 Schalke 04, Huntelaar by dm_5054a803360e5

Perhaps it’s entirely in my head, but I’ve been preconditioned to think that stars require a bit of time to get back on the pitch and scoring again. Nope, at least not this season with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and now Klaas-Jan Huntelaar all waltzing back into their first teams and drawing blood almost immediately. Huntelaar for his part hadn’t played for Schalke since August 17th when he came off at half time with a serious knee injury, exacerbated in October while training with the Netherlands.

Incidentally, his next game will come against Wolfsburg against whom Huntelaar was injured, with whom Schalke is in a battle for the final Champions League spots. Let’s hope deja vu won’t apply.

6. Seedorf wins second straight in Serie A with AC Milan

Seedorf hasn’t exactly had a honeymoon start to his AC Milan managerial career, though some stars have aligned. A loss to Udinese midweek in the Coppa Italia paved the way for a second straight win in Serie A, with two very late goals courtesy of Balotelli and Pazzini to defeat Cagliari and keep lukewarm hopes of a reasonable second half recovery alive.

However the arrival of Michael Essien, deemed surplus requirement by Chelsea (a lot of that going around lately), will certainly help. Seedorf described Essien as a “warrior” and denied his lack of first team starts reflected any problems with underlying performance. Milan will need something, anything to offer them a spark this year, in 9th place on 28 points and miles away from the Champions League, a goal the Dutch manager has all but dismissed for this year.

7. Kevin Mirallas did this for Everton with Stevenage

The assist, that is. Everton, eh?

8. Wither Jozy Altidore at Sunderland?

The American striker has scored exactly twice for the Black Cats since joining from Alkmaar over the summer. It’s safe to say his tenure has been a disaster. Steve Davis sums up a dreadful game for the striker, who played against Kidderminster in the FA Cup on the weekend:

Alas, it went the way the entire campaign has for Altidore, pretty much all wrong. His team went through in the FA Cup match (although not all that easily), but it was another wasted opportunity for Altidore to scoop up some spirit of good feeling.

Fans around the Stadium of Light were actually booing the poor guy when he got on the ball. Ouch!

The Guardian said Altidore “laboured horribly,” and at least one newspaper gave him this out of 10 rating:

Whether it’s the man or the team or a mixture of both, or the opposition, or whatever, is anyone’s guess. USA fans should hope that whatever it is gets slightly better in time for June.