Why is this Spaniard constantly overlooked as Manchester United's best player?
With an influx of midfield talent arriving at Old Trafford this season, many wondered as to how Van Gaal would assign his troops. The Dutchman began hinting that a reshuffle was on the cards at Anfield last season. United lined up in a 4-3-3 with a creative Spaniard put out on the right-wing, an unnatural position for a man lacking in the raw pace and power United’s wingers normally have.
Martial, Depay, Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin all joined United’s ranks this season, leaving them with an overflow of midfield options. Many thought Van Gaal would stick with the successful 4-3-3 formation while incorporating his new men with Martial the most likely to play his part from the bench.
It so turns out that the Frenchman has become a key player for The Reds with his pace and trickery vital to their attacking layout. He’s been operated from left-wing this season, a position he’s admitted is not his favourite, with Rooney starting up front. This brings us to the other side of United’s attack, a position which should be, in Van Gaal’s ‘play people out of their natural position’ world, occupied by Memphis; a winger with pace, power and trickery to beat a man before whipping in a cross. However, Juan Mata has nailed down a first team position out on the right and he’s deserved of it.
With four goals and three assists to his name from the wing already, it shows how much of an asset he is to United. Partner this with his ability to go a whole season without suffering long term injuries, he’s a manager’s dream. The £37m signing had struggled to find his best under Moyes after being disregarded by Chelsea. However, under Van Gaal he’s been bred a new lease of life. Last season he finished United’s third top goal scorer last season while laying on 50 key passes, only Di Maria supplied more with 51.
His revival of form was epitomized by the spectacular bicycle kick against Liverpool that ended as one of the goals of the season.
Continuing his form over this season was key. With the aforementioned new signings all coming in expecting first team football, pundits and fans alike predicted that, along with Ashley Young, Juan Mata was one of the most likely attacking options to be sacrificed by Van Gaal. This has not been the case however. Mata has continued in his wide role with the freedom to roam inside and find a killer pass. His continued presence in the starting eleven is a testament to his ability along with Van Gaal’s faith in the little Spaniard.
So where’s the case for him being United’s best player?
Its in the stats. Mata has contributed the most to United’s goal tally whether that be through himself scoring or laying on assists. The marauding inverted winger is able to scout the oppositions defence before providng a killer blow with the freedom an trust Van Gaal has in him.
Along with his in game influence, Mata possesses high levels of experience having twice, consecutively been named player of the year at Chelsea. Mata also forms part of his national sides new face with Spain trying to re-identify themselves after a devastating 2014 World Cup featuring most of their trusty old guard.
The former Chelsea man has an insane touch of class about him as well, exemplified by the crafty flick he pulled off in assisting Chris Smalling’s match winning goal against Wolfsburg. His first touch isn’t to shabby either while his eye for a pass and tight dribbling skills make him one of the most technically gifted players around.
To call him the best of United’s talent plethora may be disputed by some, however his technical ability makes him not only a joy to watch, but a constant threat to opposition. This makes him a player of such class that any team would be willing to sign him if given the chance.
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