Juan Mata got a single minute in Manchester United’s 6-2 win over Roma. But things could be different when the two sides face off again next week.
The Red Devils have one foot in the final. So manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should rotate his pack for the second leg.
That could give Mata his first European start since arguably United’s worst moment of the campaign.
When the Spaniard last kicked off a European game, United crashed to an embarrassing, and costly, defeat against Basaksehir. So he will be hoping to make a more positive impact if he starts on Thursday.
Bruno Fernandes’s outstanding form has rendered Mata the forgotten man of Old Trafford. With Donny van de Beek signed last summer, the Spaniard looks to be approaching the end of his United career.
However, he will still be hoping to go out on a high.
Mata has served United well since his £37m move (BBC). In 269 appearances he has worked tirelessly for the shirt and has bagged 50 goals and 47 assists to date.
More could yet follow, with United’s latest Europa League performance suggesting they will be hungry for goals in the return fixture.
Whatever the future holds for Mata, he will be desperate to forget about that nightmare night in Turkey. United’s performance was shambolic on that occasion and the damage was done early.
Mata was pulled shortly after the hour mark as United pushed for an equaliser that failed to materialise.
The Red Devils have come a long way since then. They are the form team in the Premier League and are on the verge of their first final under Solskjaer.
That doesn’t mean they will take the foot off the gas next week. Roma will be smarting and will not want to be embarrassed again. As for Mata, he and United’s other fringe men will be pushing for a start.
The 33-year-old is more deserving than most and he will know a place in the squad for the final is up for grabs.
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