Daley Blind has become the latest Manchester United player to be left red-faced by Juan Mata on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States.
The versatile Netherlands international was bamboozled by the technically-gifted Spaniard, who setup Wayne Rooney with an exquisite flick during United’s most-recent training session. (To watch the video, scroll down to the tweet on this page).
Last week, Mata beat Phil Jones with an equally brilliant touch, before slotting the ball past his close friend David de Gea.
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Mata has looked sharp and hungry throughout pre-season so far and played some beautiful passes in United’s 3-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday.
The 27-year-old is keen to show Van Gaal why he deserves to retain his place in Manchester United’s starting line-up ahead of the Red Devils’ Premier League opener against Tottenham on August 8.
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Additional competition for Mata
Mata now faces additional competition from summer signings Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as the youngsters Adnan Januzaj, Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira who have all caught the eye in recent weeks.
But Mata, who United signed from Chelsea for £37.1 million in January 2014, was superb in the closing months of last season and has more than enough quality to fend off the competition from his aforementioned teammates.
The former Valencia and Chelsea star scored 10 goals in 35 appearances for United last season, but he should improve on that tally this term with the Red Devils back in European competition.
Mata’s most productive season was in 2012-13, under Rafael Benitez, when he scored a superb 20 goals in 64 games for Chelsea.
Mata's lack of physicality still an issue?
These are the type of numbers that Mata is capable of producing - although for all of the playmaker’s technical qualities, question marks remain over his physicality and stamina.
One of the reasons Jose Mourinho decided to sell Mata was because the Spaniard would often slow the play down, particularly during counter-attacks.
If Van Gaal wants to quicken up his side on the counter-attack then dropping Mata suddenly becomes a real possibility. Depay, who has been used centrally in pre-season but scored 28 goals for PSV Eindhoven from the wing last season, is a significantly faster player.
But if Van Gaal needs a player to produce an eye-of-the-needle pass then there are few - if any - better players at his disposal than Mata.
Manchester United fans: should Juan Mata be one of the first names on Louis van Gaal’s teamsheet this season? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below!
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