Could Juan Mata reinvent himself as a deeper central midfielder?

Juan Mata has had to be patient and wait for his chance as Manchester United’s number ten.

Now it has come his way, he has been unable to take it. At 31, perhaps the time has come for him to make a positional change and move deeper.

We’ve taken a look at how the next chapter of his career could progress as well as examples of players doing similar.

Where could he move to?

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Perhaps a manager like Pep Guardiola would look at Mata like the Spaniard has viewed David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne.

RONALDO NEEDS TO STOP WHINING.

Before Guardiola, both were conventional number tens – like Mata is now – but have been transformed into attack-minded number eights in a 4-3-3.

There’s no reason why Mata couldn’t perform a similar role, using his technical ability to make up for his lack of speed and picking the ball up deeper to start moves.

In Solskjaer’s current 4-2-3-1, there’s a deep playmaker role going next to Scott McTominay.

Fellow left-footers Fred and Nemanja Matic lack the qualities to dictate the game from deep, with Mata far superior in terms of ability than both.

It would put more strain on Mata’s defensive contribution, but he has always shown an exemplary attitude and would be comfortable collecting the ball from the back four.

Who could Mata emulate?

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In terms of a left-footed player converting from a more attacking role to a central, withdrawn position, the obvious inspiration at United is Ryan Giggs.

The Welshman used his nous and control to impact games from a deeper role, even when his searing speed had long gone.

Silva and De Bruyne have already been mentioned, while the likes of James Maddison are already in the process of being moved deeper.

Mata’s countryman Cesc Fabregas is another who moved from number 10 – and even sometimes false nine – role to dictate games from deep later in his career.

Mata has the technical ability to adjust to a deeper role – and the class that United dearly lack – so a positional change to a playmaking position should not be ruled out.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.