We hoped it might be Bruno Fernandes, but forget him for now. Manchester United’s number 10 position is one of intrigue heading into Anfield this weekend.
Andreas Pereira shone against Liverpool at Old Trafford, and Jesse Lingard featured in wins against Tottenham and City last month. Now it could be Juan Mata’s turn to take centre stage.
Mata has started United’s last two games and exceeded expectations. He provided two assists against Norwich and then scored the winner against Wolves in midweek.
Now manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make for Sunday’s fixture.
Man in form
One of the concerns with playing Mata is that he will have to start three games in eight days. Is the 31-year-old up to it?
There is a case to be made for starting the man in form, and playing Mata while his confidence is high and he is in sync with his teammates.
Mata is a threat from set pieces and a moment of magic from him could be decisive from him if we are to get a point or snatch a famous win at Anfield.
His performances in the last two games have earned a start here. Picking him would be reward from Solskjaer to for his positive contribution.
Prior to the Norwich game, his last Premier League start was the draw against Aston Villa.
He hasn’t started two consecutive league games since the Southampton and Leicester matches in September in August. His winner against Wolves gives him a shot of doing so again.
Mata signed for United for £37.1 million in 2014 and one day when his Old Trafford stint is over, the finest memory will be his spectacular volley at Anfield.
His goal in 2015 gave United an impressive win and this weekend is an opportunity for him to double up.
It doesn’t have to be as impressive as that one, we would take a scrappy winner off his knee – given the circumstances it would be almost as memorable.
He is coming into form at just the right time and his experience and composure could be invaluable in front of a likely vociferous home crowd.
Solskjaer has more to consider than just Mata’s form. He has to play the match-up.
Andreas Pereira did so well against Liverpool at Old Trafford and his work off the ball was key to this.
Pereira chased every ball down and put Fabinho under pressure, helping to stop Liverpool controlling the game.
Will United get the same work rate and endeavour from Mata? United can’t afford a passenger in this fixture.
Pereira is also rested after starting the last two matches on the bench, and you can never rule out Solskjaer’s faith in Lingard.
Solsjkjaer has an important decision to make, and Mata has given him something to think about.
At the start of the month Mata was an unlikely candidate to be starting at Anfield. Now he has played himself into contention and give his manager a positive dilemma.
- United defender Axel Tuanzebe reflects on a ‘frustrating’ season
- Solskjaer instructions clear as Manchester United shun long ball tactics
- United linked star Camavinga has made more tackles than Wan-Bissaka
- Odion Ighalo sends message to Manchester United fan about his future
- Seven top class Manchester United combinations we’ve barely seen yet