If ever we needed proof to show that the fast-paced style of English football is different to the cultured nature of European football, Manchester United have provided it in the early parts of this season.
In the Champions League play-off round Man United looked extremely strong and menacing going forward, scoring an impressive seven goals over two legs against Belgian Cup holders Club Brugge.
Compare that with the Premier League, and youngster Adnan Januzaj remains the only United player to score a league goal and Louis van Gaal’s side have struggled to break down some packed defences.
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All Juan Mata wants to do is create goals and I believe that he is the man who holds the key to unlocking these Premier League defences, but he needs to play in behind captain Wayne Rooney in order to be at his most effective.
The 27-year-old has adapted commendably to his role on the right-hand side and contributed to the 2014-15 campaign with a brilliant goalscoring record. His nine league goals last term gained United ten points, with no other player in the Premier League being as influential in that respect.
His lack of pace does leave him exposed on the right at times and it’s fair to say that Mata does not have the stereotypical attributes associated with a winger.
On numerous occasions so far this season it has been left to summer signing Matteo Darmian to provide the width on United’s right flank, not because Mata lacks discipline or effort but simply because he does not want to be stuck out on the touchline.
There’s no doubt that the Spaniard looks more threatening when he comes inside and finds pockets of space in between the lines. He often drifts infield during games from his right-wing position because he wants to get on the ball and pull the strings from central areas.
Mata is an attacking midfielder, a natural number ten and one of the most creative players in the Premier League who would be the perfect complement for Wayne Rooney’s all-action style of play.
Not only does Mata have wonderful vision and finesse in his game but he also has the technical ability to cut defences open and put forwards through on goal.
If Van Gaal positions him in the role Mata will have a license to roam around the pitch and United fans can expect to see the very of best of Juan Mata over the coming months.
COMPETITION FOR PLACES
The number ten role seems to be the position that all the best players want to play in nowadays and this current Man United squad are blessed with a number of players who can fulfil the role.
Van Gaal seemed intent on putting Memphis in the role during pre-season and the first couple of games this season, but he has since been moved to his preferred left-wing position.
Adnan Januzaj has been given an extended run in the team whilst his compatriot Marouane Fellaini showed last season just how effective he can be in the opposition penalty area and Van Gaal recently said that he will be used this season either as a nine or ten.
Meanwhile Ander Herrera moved into an attacking midfield role in the second half at Club Brugge and impressed, setting up Wayne Rooney for a goal and scoring himself after a brilliantly timed run.
Juan Mata is a born playmaker and his talent has never been doubted, the big debate has centred on where he should play. In my opinion, which is shared by a large proportion of Man United fans, there is no debate to be had and Mata’s best position is definitely in behind the striker.