Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it obvious against West Ham that he did not have faith in his substitutes to try and turn a draw into a win, even with several of his key players flagging.

Not many fans will disagree on Dan James at this point, who was very poor in the FA Cup semi-final, nor Jesse Lingard, whose last Premier League goal or assist came in the 2018/19 season.

Juan Mata on the other hand feels a little harshly overlooked, based on how he was playing before the lockdown, and his lack of chances since.

Manchester United Training Session
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

The game against West Ham felt like the kind of match Mata could have been able to turn in United’s favour.

The Spaniard’s skill set is all about trying to pick out passes and manipulate space to find his attackers.

Solskjaer perhaps understandably did not want to take off Bruno Fernandes, but a fresh Mata could have made a difference.

In-form star to forgotten man?

In the few weeks prior to the lockdown, Mata was enjoying one of the best spells of his Manchester United career.

He looked invigorated by the chance to play alongside Fernandes, and in the win over Club Brugge, Mata created six goalscoring chances.

Mata scored in the win over LASK as United signed off, linking up well with his teammates.

In his last 288 minutes of gametime before the lockdown, Mata was creating a chance every 24 minutes.

Since the restart Mata has barely played. His one start came in the FA Cup quarter-final against Norwich City, and then he had 10 minutes as a substitute in the win over Sheffield United and then the same number against Bournemouth.

Unlike Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira, who sometimes have not made the matchday 20, Mata has been consistently included, but he just has not been used.

 

What has gone wrong?

Mata entered the restart as a contender to play on United’s right wing. This is now Mason Greenwood’s spot.

Greenwood offers United something different, a combination of goalscoring threat and pace which Mata cannot provide.

This leaves Mata trying to displace Fernandes, which is not going to happen given the Portuguese star’s importance to the side.

FBL-ENG-FA CUP-NORWICH-MAN UTD
(Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In the one start Mata did have, against Norwich, he did not have a great game and was substituted after 63 minutes. Mata did create two chances in this time and was involved in Odion Ighalo’s goal.

So we are left to speculate whether behind the scenes Mata is just not as fit and fast as his teammates and is struggling to impress in training.

He may be being saved for a regular role in the upcoming Europa League in August, but that is little use now.

The one move which probably should have happened at some stage would be to bring Mata in for Marcus Rashford, who needs a rest, and switch Mason Greenwood over to the left side.

It feels like Solskjaer missed a trick last night not bringing Mata on in the 70th minute and asking him to try and find a winner.

Mata’s original omission was understandable as United have better starting options, but as time ticks down and first team stars flag, the Spaniard’s continued absence looks a little like a wasted opportunity to try something different.

It is still possible Mata is called on in the final day of the season against Leicester. If Mata is called on, and makes a decisive impact, this frustrating few weeks for him will quickly be forgotten.

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