We once saw Robbie Earl in a TV debate about Tom Cleverley. The TV Anchor, defending the much maligned Manchester United midfielder said to Mr.Earle,
‘you have to say Cleverley is neat and tidy’
Robbie had a hilarious and insightful response.
‘So’s my wife. But I wouldn’t pick her for Manchester United.’
While a little risqué he made his point well and you might say the same about Juan Mata. The Spaniard is very tidy on the ball but, during his time at Manchester United, it hasn’t always been easy to see what function he satisfies in the team. He’s too much of a passenger too much of the time. And he goes missing in pretty much every game – even in his goalscoring games.
The Telegraph wrote an article on Monday which sounded pretty final:
Mata has displayed a willingness to play on the right or left of a three-pronged advanced midfield in the past, but the lack of defensive discipline in his game makes it unlikely that Van Gaal will position him on either flank.
He will certainly not dislodge Di Maria, while Van Gaal is likely to prefer Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Adnan Januzaj or Young on the other side due to their differing qualities.
Mata’s greatest failing at United, however, has been his inability to influence fixtures against top-level opponents.
Mata isn’t quick or strong. So you’d imagine that, at £37.1m he would be a wizard with the ball at his feet and an incredible passer. But we just haven’t seen it. We haven’t seen the killer pass – too often he slows the game down by taking another touch – nor have we witnessed the sort of mercurial and game-changing technique, flicks or guile that Mata was so obviously bought for.
If he had been bought for £20m he may have been given more time. But his price tag demands immediate results. 10 months in, he’s scored 8 goals – against lower ranking sides like Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland, Southampton, Norwich City, Newcastle United and Aston Villa – but he simply doesn’t warrant a place in the team.
The Telegraph surmises:
They do not come much bigger than City at the Etihad Stadium this weekend and, with Rooney ready to return, Mata is the obvious man to miss out.
And that would appear to be the most logical long-term outcome too for Mata.
We’d love to see Mata come into his own at Manchester United. But it’s increasingly difficult to see that happening right now.
Manchester United fans: time to get rid?