Manchester United star Juan Mata branded himself an “offensive midfielder” when explaining his position in Jose Mourinho’s team.
Mata came through Valencia’s youth system as a number 10, and also operated in that position for Chelsea between 2011 and 2014.
The 29-year-old has played central for the Red Devils since arriving in 2014, but has mainly been used on the right of a three-pronged attack.
Mata has hit double figures in each of his three full seasons with United, whilst he is already off in the mark in the Premier League this term – netting against Crystal Palace before the international break.
Despite not possessing the physical attributes usually associated with a winger, Mata has insisted that he enjoys playing off the right as he is able to pick up more space in dangerous areas.
Mata told Inside United:
“Let’s say offensive midfielder. But, obviously, I am playing more now on the right-wing, when I try to come inside and create space for my team-mates, and with the overlaps of Matteo [Darmian], Antonio [Valencia] or Ashley [Young], it makes things easier for me.
“And you know, it’s this kind of freedom that allows me to be in touch with the ball, that’s where I feel comfortable. As much time as I have the ball, I feel better and I feel that my game grows and that’s what I try to do.
“I consider myself as this kind of attacking midfielder, trying to find the gaps between the opposition midfielders and defenders and produce what the team needs between the lines.”
Despite the form of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in the final third of the field, Mata, who is valued at £27m by transfermarkt.co.uk, has started six of United’s seven Premier League matches this season.
The Spaniard is again expected to be in Mourinho’s XI when the Red Devils visit bitter rivals Liverpool on Saturday afternoon.