Louis Van Gaal must have heard United fans loud and clear when they gave a resounding ovation to Juan Mata’s display against Tottenam Hotspur on Sunday. The United manager for some odd reason has opted to leave Mata out of United’s lineup in recent weeks and I truly believe that, this decision has been Van Gaal’s biggest mistake since becoming the United manager.
Juan Mata defied all his critics, who have constantly been on his back for being a player who does not track back to help his defenders. But try and ask the same thing to Antonio Valencia and he will have an entirely different opinion. Mata constantly stuck to Tottenham’s left back Danny Rose and never left Valencia in a tricky situation.
Mata’s display against Spurs was one of the finest, Old Trafford has seen in recent seasons. The Spaniard had the perfect mix of defensive edge and attacking brilliance against Spurs and Van Gaal must take note of that and question his decision of not starting with Juan Mata since the new year. That’s right, Mata has not started for Manchester United since 31st December last year.
Juan Mata invariably kept himself in crucial positions for United players to make the best use of his vision and talent but the most telling stat from the game saw Mata complete 10 successful tackles and 8 interceptions. Mata’s overall performance against Spurs has left Van Gaal look like an idiot for dropping him for all these weeks.
Look at Mata’s heat map against Spurs
Another aspect of Mata’s play which always catches the eye is his link-up play with Ander Herrera. Both the Spaniards are similar kinds of players who like to be on he ball and dominate. Mata used his intelligence to exchange passes with Herrera and yet drag Danny Rose out of his position to allow Herrera and Valencia to bomb on and attack from the right side.
Herrera and Mata exchanged 25 successful passes and looked like the best thing about United’s midfield and further enhanced their claims to start against Liverpool. United look a completely different side with Mata and Herrera in the same team and their performance against Spurs deserves a start against Liverpool as well.
Look at Herrera’s heat map against Spurs
Everything is pointing towards Mata starting against Liverpool. Mata’s defensive display against Tottenham no longer makes him a liability to United and it won’t be a problem for the Spaniard to cope against the pacey Liverpool side.
Van Gaal, so far has been reluctant in starting with Mata but after his widely acclaimed performance against Spurs, we might see the Spaniard start against Liverpool this weekend.