Football

Juan Mata.

Highlights show Juan Mata's put on a through-ball clinic v Rostov

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It could be said at times during Juan Mata's career that he is a bit of an under-appreciated quantity.

Towards the end of his days as a Chelsea player, the Spaniard was deemed too much of a luxury player to play regularly in their system.

He did not have the pace and work ethic that the likes of Willian, Eden Hazard and, at the time, Andre Schurrle could boast.

Even for the Spanish national team, although he has 41 caps to his name and can call himself a World and European champion, the playmaker has never been a key figure in the Spanish setup and has played second fiddle to the likes of Andreas Iniesta and co.

Since his £37.1 million to Manchester United, though, Mata has become a pivotal part of the Red Devils and at 28-years-old, he is just entering his prime.

Many thought Jose Mourinho's appointment at Old Trafford last summer would have spelled the end for Mata after it was the Portuguese tactician who sanctioned his move away from Chelsea back in January of 2014.

But, that hasn't turned out to be the case. Mata is now one of the key names in the United attack and alongside the likes of Marcus Rashford, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, United now have more firepower than they have had in years.

Mourinho's men progressed to the final eight in the Europa League last night after securing a 2-1 aggregate win over awkward Russian side Rostov.

It was Mata who scored the only goal on the night to give the Red Devils a 1-0 second leg victory, but a highlights package of his performance shows just how influential he was on proceedings.

The Spanish creator would have the triangle button held down on FIFA. Time and time again he created opportunities with clever through balls and he also showed the ability to make runs in behind himself.

Now that Dimitri Payet has left the Premier League and Mesut Ozil has suffered a dip in form, Mata might just be the current king of the through ball in the Premier League.

Judging by this evidence, it's hard to argue.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paris Saint-Germain

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