Manchester United took the decision last week to extend Juan Mata’s contract by a further 12 months.
This split opinion, with some supporters feeling Mata is fully deserving of an extension, and others taking the view that it was time to move on and he will block the development of younger players.
Well, now United have made the decision, the coaching staff have to decide how make the best of it.
Mata needs a proper role
Mata started only six Premier League games last season, playing just three times as substitute. While he missed some due to a return to Spain for the sad death of his mother, there was a lot of time he was available for where he was simply overlooked.
Both Mata and teammate Donny van de Beek were used too scarcely, with Bruno Fernandes over used.
Not only was Fernandes played too much to his own detriment, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed too reluctant or scared to take him off. This needs to change next season, for United’s benefit at Bruno.
Last season Mata was an unused substitute 25 times in all competitions. Below is a list of some of the games he was ignored in.
- 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig
- 1-0 defeat to Arsenal
- 0-0 draw with Manchester City
- 0-0 draw with Liverpool
- 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United
- 0-0 draw with Leeds
- 1-1 draw with Fulham
With the benefit of hindsight of course, these were all matches where United could have done with Mata’s creativity.
The Spaniard still has an eye for a pass, creating eight chances in nine league games he played. The more football he plays, the sharper he is going to be.
While United have a big squad, and have plenty of options off the bench, Solskjaer did not appear to get the balance right last year.
If Solskjaer does not believe Mata capable of impacting games from the bench, then there was no point renewing his contract.
This summer United have committed to Mata, so now he is here, Solskjaer has to change his approach and use the Spaniard more regularly and give him a chance to be the impact player the club believe he is still capable of being.
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