Juan Mata enjoyed a rare starting berth on Tuesday night as he helped Manchester United defeat Luton Town 3-1 in the third round of the Carabao Cup. The Spaniard scored the first goal from the penalty spot before substitutes Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood came off the bench to seal the win.
Juan Mata’ goal meant he is only the United player that has scored in the last eight seasons since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, which is a unique feat in itself. Alongside Donny Van De Beek, he was one of the better players on the night as he orchestrated the play throughout the match through his exquisite passes and through his positioning as well.
Mata completed 78 minutes on the pitch mostly in the position of the right wing before his substitution. He had 67 touches with the ball and 90% pass accuracy. Of the 13 shots United fired at the Luton goal, seven involved El Mago. His display during the game saw him pickup the man of the match award. Since the beginning of last season, Mata has had a hand in 11 goals in all competitions contributing 4 goals and 7 assists.
Another key game that the Spaniard proved crucial in was last season’s UEFA Europa League quarter final against FC Copenhagen. We struggled to gain the advantage in the game despite having many shots at the opposition goal. When Mata came on as a substitute late on, he fed the ball into Anthony Martial. In turn the Frenchman was fouled and earned the match winning penalty.
Solskjær had nothing but praise for the midfielder after the game:
“You saw when he came on, he’s so composed, calm. He can pick a pass. He is such a great influence in the dressing room. I can just commend him for his professionalism.”
The previous game in the Europa League against LASK, he grabbed two assists in the 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Mata has made it clear that he is never satisfied in missing football. However, in the few moments he does start or come off the bench, he can still prove valuable.
Though now 32, Juan Mata still has a better skill set than many other players in the game. He can produce those special moments that unlocks the opposition defence and is great at taking set pieces. Whilst United like to use the speed of attack, the Spaniard has never had blistering pace and with his advancing years, he will not be getting any quicker.
What Mata lacks in pace, he more than makes up for when it comes to his technical ability. A player with great vision and the ability to pick out a pass to his teammates is a crucial attributes. This comes into play when the opposition likes to defend in numbers against us. He also has the experience of the big games where he can handle different situations which Solskjær can count on. As one of more senior members of the squad, he is no doubt an important presence within the dressing room.
Though, he only has one year left on his contract at United and it’s probably right to say that his time at the club will come to an end one day, we should not be looking to push him out just yet as he still can have much influence on games and in the dressing room.