Manchester United’s big-game displays have vastly improved over the last two weeks, as Jose Mourinho’s men begin to look more like a team rather than a collection of talented individuals.
Over the weekend, the Red Devils beat Liverpool 2-1, in a game which Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay will scoop all the plaudits for their excellent performances. However, one man who deserves huge amounts of credit is Juan Mata; the man who makes Manchester United tick with his brilliant vision and genius footballing brain.
That’s a view echoed by United legend Gary Neville, who reckons that the former Chelsea man is becoming more and more important for the team. He’s what I like to call a ‘force multiplier’ as Mata makes everyone around him a much better player.
“There’s signs in the last two games that there’s a team there and Juan Mata’s become more important to connect the team,” Neville told Sky Sports, per the Manchester Evening News.
“It looks like you’ve got [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial, [Romelu] Lukaku but they haven’t got that glue that just knits it together. Mata looks like he might become a very important player.
“Michael Carrick, [Paul] Pogba has sort of got the ability to connect back to front but Mata certainly has got the composure to hold the ball and allow those players to make their runs so they can get up the pitch and get into a point where they can play one-on-one.
“They need to be one-on-one. You see with Rashford [against Liverpool], [Alexis] Sanchez, Lukaku. Get them one-on-one around the edge of the box, they are probably as good as you are going to get.
“However to get the ball into those situations, as many times as possible with quality, you need someone to put the ball there to them and Mata did really well on Monday night.
“I thought he changed the game, many people said Rashford did. But I thought Mata played equally as big a role and today he’s done well off the right-hand side.”
It comes as no surprise that United look like a much more unified team when Mata plays. Like Neville points out, the team were chasing the game against Crystal Palace, while not creating opportunities. Then Mata came onto the field and immediately we started cutting palace open at will.
For me, he deserves a real run in the team in the #10 slot. He’s our Mesut Ozil or David Silva, and in the modern-day game you need a player like that, particularly when sides set up defensive-minded, which many teams do when they come to Old Trafford. We know that Sevilla are going to try keep it tight and knick a goal perhaps from a counter-attacking situation. Mata could be the difference between us winning and losing that game, while playing attractive football in the process.