Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata revealed after yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace that he suffered having to watch the game from the stands.
The Red Devils eventually ran out 1-0 winners in a closely fought encounter, virtue of Mata’s second-half strike after he entered the fray as a substitute. The result to some degree eases pressure on the squad, as their lacklustre start to the season has been repeatedly compared to that of David Moyes’s last year.
United vs Palace
In truth the clash against Neil Warnock’s strugglers at Old Trafford was a dull affair until Mata’s introduction, with the Spain international successful in changing the tide in United’s favour.
His tidy finish from outside the box gifted Van Gaal’s side the three points, and the player himself has admitted it was his aim to change the game upon stepping up from the bench.
“Well, I was suffering. It was a difficult game. In the first half, they were good at defending, they were very compact. They had a very good chance to take the lead.
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“Well, I was suffering. It was a difficult game. In the first half, they were good at defending, they were very compact"
“So I was thinking if I come on, I will try to change the game and, luckily, I did.”
Since the introduction of Van Gaal Mata has largely struggled to become a regular starting XI player.
Competition for places
The summer acquisitions of the likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Daley Blind have drastically increased the levels of competition for places at United, and as such certain players - Mata, who earns £140,000-a-week being one of them - have been unable to get as much game-time as they would have liked.
He remains a classy act capable of changing games, but his defensive shortcomings - which is coincidentally why Jose Mourinho sold him - could a reason as to why Van Gaal might prefer other options.