Juan Mata inspired Manchester United’s 3-2 comeback against Newcastle. His pinpoint free-kick lifted the crowd and was the catalyst for a fightback.
The perfectly timed and exquisitely executed set piece underlined the importance of the Spaniard.
Mata is shockingly under-utilised at Old Trafford.
The 30-year-old has started only twice this season in the league, and played in five out of eight matches.
Mata has only completed 90 minutes once, on the first day of the season, a 2-1 win over Leicester.
When was the last time Mata played 90 minutes for two league games in a row?
Now there is a good question. The last time this happened was during the festive fixtures last December.
Between December 13 and January 1, Mata enjoyed a healthy run, playing 90 minutes in five of six league games. United went unbeaten through this period.
Outside of those dates, Mata did not complete full games back to back at all in 2017/18.
Even more stark, in Jose Mourinho’s first season at United in 2016/17, Mata did not play back to back 90 minute league games once at all. In fact he completed 90 minutes at all just once.
He did so frequently under Louis van Gaal, and repaid United with 10 goals and 11 assists in 2015/16, his best return at the club. This included a memorable FA Cup final goal.
Should Mourinho change his approach to Juan Mata?
Many expected Mourinho to sell Mata instantly at United, having sold him from Chelsea for £37.5 million to David Moyes’ side in January 2014.
The Spaniard has never been among his favourites, but perhaps he should be?
After Mata inspired a fightback against Newcastle, with his overall play and not just his free-kick, perhaps Mourinho will start looking more favourably on the playmaker.
Mata will be fresh after the international break after being overlooked by Spain once again, a knock on effect of his inconsistent usage at United.
Now is the time to give him a run in the side. Let him play 90 minutes for several games back to back.
It’s no use picking him to start once every three games and then substituting him midway through. It’s no recipe for success and doesn’t help Mata’s confidence.
Jose Mourinho might just be surprised what happens if he finally puts his faith in the little maestro.