Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has insisted dropping Juan Mata in favour of returning captain Wayne Rooney for this afternoon's derby clash at the Etihad was an easy decision to make, for one major reason.
Rooney returned from a three-match suspension to go straight into United's starting XI for the season's first showdown with noisy neighbours Manchester City, with the Red Devils skipper always close to a certainty to get his place back.
That left Van Gaal with one major selection dilemma, would it be Mata or Adnan Januzaj who makes way for the England international, particularly with Radamel Falcao ruled out of the Sunday lunchtime clash through injury.
"He gives me more in midfield"
In his pre-match interview Van Gaal was adamant Rooney simply offers a better all-round package in midfield than United's former £37.1 million club record signing, with a revelation that the Spanish schemer must have found very difficult to take.
Van Gaal declared: "For me it's not difficult because he's my captain. I think he's very important in our team.
"He gives me more in the midfield and that's why."
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Where does Mata go from here?
Ruthless comments like those from Van Gaal have to put Mata's long-term future at United under serious scrutiny.
Mata has now been left out of Van Gaal's starting XI four times in all competitions so far this season, which when combined with a preference for using Rooney in an advanced midfield role leaves the former Chelsea hero struggling to nail down a consistent starting spot.
Thrown in Angel di Maria's ability to play through the middle and it looks a tall order for Mata to prove he's worthy of preference in that coveted number 10 spot at Old Trafford, so be prepared for rumours of a high-profile exit to La Liga or Serie A in January to run wild after today's new snub.
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