Jamie Redknapp has tipped Juan Mata to leave Manchester United because he is too good for his current role as a super sub.
The Spanish playmaker move from Chelsea to Old Trafford in a then club-record £37.1 million deal last January, signing a deal worth £140,000-a-week. He left to escape a bit-part role under Jose Mourinho, but has landed in a similar situation with Louis van Gaal.
With the likes of Wayne Rooney, Angel Di Maria and Robin van Persie leading the line in attack, Mata has had to make do with a role from the bench on more than one occasion this season. Overall he has started just seven games, but again showed his quality at the weekend, coming off the bench to score the winner against Crystal Palace.
Van Gaal will appreciate having such a quality player to bring on in times of need, but Redknapp believes Mata won't put up with the situation for too long. In fact, the former Liverpool star has tipped the 26-year-old to leave Old Trafford in the near future.
"He found himself surplus to requirements at Chelsea and now seems to be in a similar position at Manchester United." - Jamie Redknapp
"It is easy to pick on Juan Mata. He is not blessed with pace, he's not a big player and he comes across as a quiet, humble guy. But you cannot argue with what he produces on the pitch," Redknapp told the Daily Mail.
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"He came off the bench to save Manchester United against Crystal Palace and he must be wondering what more he has to do to play regular football at Old Trafford.
"There is no doubting his quality — this is a player with a World Cup and European Championship to his name.
"But he found himself surplus to requirements at Chelsea and now seems to be in a similar position at Manchester United."
Tipped for Spain return
Van Gaal certainly did not feel Mata with confidence during his £150 million summer spending spree. Both Di Maria and Radamel Falcao were brought in to boost the attack despite current options.
"I could see him moving on or maybe even back to Spain." - Jamie Redknapp
As captain, Rooney looks immovable in the number ten role, meaning Mata's situation is unlikely to improve regardless of his form. For Redknapp, it means the writing could already be in the wall for the diminutive figure.
"You have to credit him because he never causes a fuss or has a bad word to say. But make no mistake. He wants to play football," he added.
"He is too good to be a super sub at United and if he doesn't get some more action, I could see him moving on or maybe even back to Spain."