Player Profile: Juan Mata
Club: Manchester United
PlayON Price: £11.6m
PlayON GW30: 3300 pts
Juan Mata’s regular blog posts often reveal him to be a thoughtful and intelligent man, with a well rounded view on life. On Sunday, in case anyone had forgotten, he gave us a timely demonstration that he remains an exceptional footballer too. The Spanish international hasn’t always enjoyed pride of place in Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side, but against Liverpool he was the defining talent in what was possibly United’s biggest game of the season.
Sometimes unfairly stained by the fact that he was the major signing of the disastrous David Moyes era, Mata – unlike many big January buys – arrived at Old Trafford with an immediate impact in 2013/14. A maestro with the ball at his feet, in his 15 appearances Mata created four goals and scored a further six from midfield in a turbulent half-season.
Reduced to a bit part player at times this term, the PlayON faithful have been reluctant to field him in their line-ups, but don’t expect that reluctance to last.
Sky Sports published a recent statistic showing the leading Premier League midfielders since the 2011/12 season. Juan Mata lead this illustrious pack – Silva, Hazard, Toure, Gerrard included – for goal contributions, with a remarkable 31 goals and 34 assists in total. Granted an insecure squad role this season, Mata has failed to display the same imaginative influence that has come to typify his game.
Supplying just three assists from 31 chances created across 19 starts, the United no.8 falls some way behind the creative forces at his club, let alone the Premier League. Creating a goalscoring opportunity every 56 minutes – Hazard (34), Ozil (34), Fabregas(30) – Mata’s contribution has been average at best.
Mata’s mandate in victory over Liverpool was more that of a winger than an attacking midfield innovator: making three out of three successful dribbles and delivering one successful cross from five, the Spain international flourished in the wide role. For his first goal, he showed a unexpected burst of pace to beat his countryman, Alberto Moreno, and slot home.
Considering the fine form of Manchester United over the past couple of fixtures, a continuation of the same system seems likely from van Gaal from here on out. A 4-5-1 with Mata on the right, complimented by Di Maria on the left, could be the prime and most effective choice to close out the term.
Throughout his career, Juan Mata’s goal threat has been a defining string to his bow and two world-class strikes in Gameweek 30 to seal a 2-1 victory over Liverpool will have surely reignited that reputation in many fantasy managers’ eyes. Putting away seven league goals from just 22 attempts this season, Mata has enjoyed a thoroughly respectable return given limited opportunity. Should he continue to be employed on the right, the man from Burgos may expect to have some success cutting in and shooting with his stronger foot.
A man whose name literally translates to “John Kills” did just that last weekend. United’s tough close to the season may cause some prospective selectors to cherry-pick him for the more winnable games, but at £11.6m and with 3,300 PlayON points scored against United’s closest league rivals, Mata is a choice for the big occasion.