Since the unfortunate injury to Angel di Maria, Manchester United’s other playmaker Juan Mata has deputised as United’s main man in midfield superbly in his absence. The Spaniard is enjoying a very successful run in the side, and is proving to be worth every penny of his £37.1m fee.
Mata, who arrived at Old Trafford from Premier League rivals Chelsea 11 months ago, is really starting to flourish in a United shirt. Eyebrows were certainly raised when the Blues boss Jose Mourinho allowed the Spanish playmaker to leave Stamford Bridge, even though his hefty price tag banked the club £37m. It undoubtedly took time for the 26-year-old to adjust into his new surroundings, even a player of Mata’s stature needs time to settle into a club the size of Manchester United – but now he has been given the freedom to express himself, he is enjoying being the star man, and is taking his chance with both hands.
The Spanish international has featured 16 times in the Premier League for the Red Devils this term – with five goals to his name already – including three in his last eight outings. Mata was outstanding in the heart of United’s midfield in the 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Louis Van Gaal’s team didn’t quite do enough to steal all three points, but that wasn’t for want of trying, as Mata in particular tried everything in his power to get United the victory.
Since the Spanish international’s arrival at Old Trafford, Mata has found the net 11 times in 31 games for the Red Devils. It’s not just his eye for a goal, or his ability to create chances for others – his overall presence and balance on the ball makes him a joy to watch, and his intelligence off and on the ball would benefit any team.
After a difficult start to life in Manchester for Louis van Gaal, things are starting to fit into place nicely at Old Trafford. The Red Devils are unbeaten in nine Premier League games – with seven of those nine being victories – including six straight wins on the bounce. United’s purple patch of form has propelled them into third place in the league table – just seven points behind second placed Manchester City, and ten off leaders Chelsea.
The title may well be a unrealistic aim this year, but securing Champions League football isn’t. When van Gaal arrived at Old Trafford his main aim would have been to get Manchester United back into Europe’s elite competition, and at the moment you wouldn’t bet against him doing so.
Manchester United’s senior players have really stepped up to plate this term, with Juan Mata being at the forefront. With a well documented injury list, it makes you wonder that if the Red Devils didn’t have such a packed physio room, could they have challenged for the title this year? It will be very interesting to see just how devastating United will be when they have a fully fit squad available.
If Juan Mata can keep himself fit and stay in outstanding form for the Red Devils, Van Gaal and the Manchester United fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of the Mata and di Maria pairing up when the Argentine is back. But until then, it’s up to the Spaniard himself to keep United flowing in attack, and to prove to his boss that he’s worthy of retaining his starting place.