Juan Mata explains what Jose Mourinho has instructed him to do this season

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How far has Juan Mata come since suffering the humiliation of being replaced just half an hour after coming on as a substitute in the Community Shield back in August?

There were plenty of critics and pundits at the time who thought that call had effectively ended Mata's Manchester United career.

After struggling to fit into Jose Mourinho's system at Chelsea it was only natural for some to share similar concerns once the Portuguese was appointed at Old Trafford.

However, if anything, Mata has actually strengthened his position within the first team squad over the course of the season.

Saturday's goal against Watford was his second in as many weeks and his ninth of the campaign - making him the Red Devils' second top scorer behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Just a few weeks after Mourinho urged his midfielders to take the goal-scoring burden off Ibrahimovic's shoulders, Mata appears to have listened and looks well-placed to beat his previous best tally of 10 goals, achieved in his last two years at United.

And it turns out that isn't the only instruction Mourinho has given Mata this year as the Spaniard has revealed the tactical tweak he has also made to his game this term.

The 28-year-old was asked for United's official matchday programme whether Mourinho has specifically asked him to get into the opposition's box more frequently this season.

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He responded: "Well yes, I think he appreciates some different qualities from different players so whenever I play I always try to be in that position that allows me to create a chance or finish one.

"Sometimes you score, sometimes you don’t, but it’s important to always be in the right positions. I try to play with the ball - possession, passes, assists - but scoring goals has also been a big part of my career."

There is no better example of Mourinho's instruction in effect than Mata's goal against Watford, where he was found by Anthony Martial at the edge of the six-yard box after making a clever run.

While some teams' schedules appear bare over the next few weeks, United's is as hectic as ever.

With four competitions still to fight for, Mata should get plenty more opportunities to find the back of the net between now and the end of the season.

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Nevertheless, the former Chelsea star is reluctant to set himself a specific goal target.

"I’m happy with my goals total. I’ve got nine so far and hopefully I can score many more between now and the end of the season, and then look back on a really good season," Mata added.

"So far in February that amount of goals for a midfielder is not bad. I haven’t set a target but hopefully I can do it again and have 10 goals for three seasons in a row."

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