They have both been really important in Manchester United’s push for a top four place this season. But the mere fact that we are talking about Manchester United grasping for that last Champions League berth speaks volumes about the current crop.
Yes, Juan Mata has scored 9 league goals, even though he has been out of the team for chunks of this season. But even those with a less colourful imagination could surely come up with a more explosive alternative on the right of a front 3?
Mata’s best position is still as a number 10 and he may yet get a chance there next season. But Louis’s current preferred 4-3-3 doesn’t necessarily have room for one of those.
Mata is a quality player but do his specific talents suit LvG’s system?
Wouldn’t it be better to sell while the price is high and use the money to bring in a more dynamic alternative like Bale or Reus, for the right wing?
It’s very much the same story for Marouane Fellaini. A year ago Manchester United would have struggled to give him away. Since then he has shown true grit to get back into the team.
But since the tactic of hitting the ball long to him has been negated by man marking of the Belgian, his efficacy has waned sharply.
He scored against Palace but Manchester United’s overall game was poor and Fellaini has to take some responsibility. Manchester United should sell while they can get a decent price. He’s a good player but he’d have rings run around him by a top player.
The same goes for Ashley Young. There is talk of him getting a new contract and he is, admittedly, becoming a decent utility man. But his two assists against poor opposition do not hide the fact that he’s not good enough to play in the front three of any elite team in Europe – so why should he be deemed good enough for Manchester United?
Don’t be fooled by the plaudits he is getting because 2 goals and 2 assists before the Palace game is not the ratio of a top winger. The reason that he’s getting credit is because he was so poor for so long before his recent run of form and because the rest of the team are playing below average.
You can argue that all three players are currently scoring goals and making assists. But that’s their job isn’t it?
The question is whether they are doing it ENOUGH and whether Manchester United can bring in players who can do it MORE. To win games at the very top level – to win more Champions League medals – they need great players instead of good ones.
Mata is a lovely player to watch amd a particularly nice chap. But you can only put 11 players on the park and so there can be no room for sentiment – as Jose Mourinho illustrated when he sold the champions’ player of the year to United. And that sale didn’t stop Chelsea from becoming champions 18 months later.
Barcelona’s front three have scored 111 goals this season. Manchester United’s preferred front three of Rooney, Mata and Young have scored 26. You do the math.
Young, Mata and Fellaini are doing pretty well – but in a team whose bar has dropped dramatically. And, certainly in the case of Fellaini and Young, it’s not enough if Manchester United want to compete with the best.
Manchester United fans: Do you really believe that Manchester United can be successful again with these three starting?