Juan Mata: From Indulgent Accessory to Key Player at United

When United signed Juan Mata in January 2014, the move was described by some as “desperate” and destined to fail. Even on this blog, there was a sense that this was not the player we needed. But football is full of surprises…

Juan Mata scored the penalty against West Brom on Saturday to seal an impressive victory in a game dominated by United. Still often lacking the killer touch in the final third, it was a good win for the Red Devils and Mata played his part. The Spaniard is now an integral part of the team and has started every game in both the Premier League and Champions League this season. He now has 5 goals and as many assists in all competitions.

Mata’s £37.1 million price tag raised some eyebrows, and was considered more of a panic buy than a genuine considered purchase. But Mata has fitted in superbly in the United family, establishing himself as a creative force and scoring plenty of goals.

With Wayne Rooney and others competing for the number 10 position, it looked as though Mata might be sacrificed at one stage; but Louis Van Gaal found a solution, choosing to play Mata as a “false winger” on the right. He was played in a similar position by David Moyes with little success, so naturally this move by Van Gaal was met with scepticism by fans, but the evidence suggests it’s working.
Mata proved everyone wrong last season with an impressive tally of 10 goals and leading the creative line of the team. His scissor kick against Liverpool and cool finish past Joe Hart were two of the best goals last season. He has perfectly adapted to Van Gaal’s style of play and has been given freedom to roam by the manager on the field. Since joining United in the January transfer window of 2014, he has been involved in 30 goals for the team, which is more than any other player in the side.

He was let go by Jose Mourinho because of being a ‘luxury’ player. As it turns out, Chelsea’s unwanted luxury player is now a main man at United and enjoys ever-increasing popularity with fans. His statistics speak for themselves – he already has 19 goals for United, one more than he managed in his two-year stay at Chelsea, and those goals have come in just 53 appearances in a red shirt compared to 71 for the Blues.

Juan Mata has proved all his critics wrong. His creativity and impact has only grown under Van Gaal, and he is now a go-to man for United.