Juan Mata is a world-class player; his time at Chelsea proved that. But, his playtime at Manchester United has been sporadic, especially under new manager Louis van Gaal.
However, is the Dutchman leaving out a player that is simply too good to be a bench-warmer?
When Van Gaal's predecessor David Moyes signed Mata from current league leaders Chelsea, many people questioned the move. Where would Mata fit into the United team? Is he a Manchester United player? And to be honest, the doubts about the Spaniard were quite strange.
We had seen already how talented the 26-year-old is from his time at the London club, he won player of the season two years in a row and was dubbed as one of the best attacking midfielders in the game. However, when Jose Mourinho took the reins as Chelsea manager once more, Mata was the one sacrificed.
He joined United for a club record fee at the time, the price-tag of just over £37 million was a hefty one, but the Spaniard has lived up to that figure.
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Mata has contributed five goals in nine games so far this season, mostly from that attacking midfield role. Now, of course, United have an embarrassment of riches going forward and aren't short of options when it comes to Mata's preferred position.
Summer signing Angel di Maria and club captain Wayne Rooney can play in the same role just as well, if not better than the ex-Chelsea man. Nonetheless, if Van Gaal played Di Maria on the right and Rooney alongside Robin van Persie upfront, United could fit all of these quality individuals into the same starting XI.
Juan Mata is too good to be left on the sidelines
Mata came off the bench to score the winner against Crystal Palace Saturday evening and his celebration was full of emotion, maybe he feels he is being wrongly left out of the side and the goal was a message to his boss, you would have to agree with him on the former if that is the case.
Yes, Di Maria is a fantastic talent, the Argentinian has probably been the Red Devils' best player thus far, but he can play just as well on either wing. The only issue for Van Gaal comes when Radamal Falcao returns to fitness, the summer loan signing is one of the best strikers in the world and it is hard to imagine him being left out of a struggling side when he is able to play.
On the other hand, Van Persie cannot be sacrificed; the Dutchman has scored some crucial goals for United, including that dramatic stoppage time equaliser against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
The 31-year-old seems to have a special bond with his compatriot manager, and you would be surprised if Van Gaal left the World Cup semi-finalist out of the starting line-up.
Competition for places
Then, of course, we come to Rooney, there is no doubt the captain is the first name on the team-sheet with his undeniable quality and leadership skills, so you would think the Englishman has nothing to worry about as long as his performance stay as they are.
Finally, Adnan Januzaj was one of United's only standout players last season and has forced his way into the first-team. With the amount of clubs tracking the youngster, Van Gaal needs to keep the Belgian happy in order for him to stay at the club and regular first-team starts is the only thing that can keep the 19-year-old's morale up.
So, has Mata earned his place in the starting eleven ahead of all these players? Well, the United manager will certainly be pondering the idea of starting the Spaniard against Arsenal after the international break, but who the boss would drop to fit Mata into the team is another question.
You can understand the predicament Van Gaal finds himself in, it's not the worst problem in the world to have, but it could end up in one of the aforementioned player's leaving the club. After all, being a world-class bench warmer; isn't a title you'd want to have.News Now - Sport News