As quoted by the club’s official website, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has raved about Juan Mata’s masterclass against Norwich.
Given the opportunity to start from the off, the Spaniard delivered an imperious display, oozing in creativity and class. As well as providing two assists, Mata made two key passes, created two big chances and completed seven of his eight attempted long balls too, as per Sofascore.
And Solskjaer singled out the veteran play-maker for his performance, insisting that he provides a different dimension to the side compared to someone like Daniel James.
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He said: “Juan’s quality showed. He was excellent. When we get Juan facing forward, he can pick out passes, he can put crosses in. I’m delighted with him. He’s a vital member of the squad. I thought we found him more than we’ve done before, when he’s played. We want to get him on the ball as much as we can and today he kept finding spaces.
“He’s a very good footballer and we need to find him at his feet. We need to know what we’re good at and we’ve got quick players – I could have chosen Dan (James) with his pace, but Juan gives us a different dimension.”
When you’ve got players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and even Mason Greenwood, you desperately need your midfield players to get on the ball and find them either to feet, or in behind. And Mata did that expertly on Saturday afternoon, constantly getting in between the lines, and receiving possession – he enjoyed 82 touches and provided 64 accurate passes against the Canaries.
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Whilst James may offer a bit more pace and directness out wide, Mata’s greater play-making skills means he could well be the answer to United’s long-term goal-scoring woes. The Red Devils had found the back of the net just 32 times from their 21 Premier League games before Saturday, but the inclusion of the former Chelsea man in the starting line-up could be key to finding their touch in front of goal again.