Spaniard Juan Mata has found himself on the bench in recent weeks, and Manchester United legend and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes this is a good decision by manager Jose Mourinho.
Juan Mata started on the bench for Manchester United, as they finally managed to claim three points at Old Trafford after a spate of drawn games. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal proved to be the difference maker against Tottenham, as the Red Devils inched close to the top five.
After the game, Neville spoke about the omission of Mata, who has been one of the best players for the club this season, saying that it made sense tactically.
“I don’t think it’s a day to dismiss Juan Mata. It’s better to talk about the positives,” said the former United full-back on the Gary Neville podcast.
“I would always question whether Juan Mata has got a place in this Manchester United team in a wide area in the way that Manchester United should play. They should play with players that are mobile in wide areas, in my opinion. I think if Juan Mata was going to come back in it would have to be in one of the three midfield positions or as a.”
Neville added that the presence of Swede striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also a factor in the decision. Zlatan isn’t a pacy forward, but a strong player who can hold up the ball and finish. In this regard the pace needs to come from the wings, and this is something that Mata can’t provide.
Juan Mata has had a roller coaster ride this past year. When it became known that Jose Mourinho would be taking over at Old Trafford, it was widely believed that he would ship the Spaniard out because of their history at Chelsea. Mata went on to become one of the best players in Mourinho’s Manchester United, but the emergence of Mkhitaryan has proved to be his undoing. Mata has started on the bench in three of United’s last four games, and United have won three of them.
Neville does put forth a very rational argument in terms of tactics, but United’ Spanish magician could clinch a starting berth once again if the club run into hard times.