Darren Fletcher has described Manchester United team-mate Juan Mata as a “classic no.10” also suggesting that the clubs £37.1 million record signing will be one of the players to watch next season. The Spanish international has settled in at the Old Trafford club, winning The Player of the Month award for February, scoring his debut goal against Aston Villa at Old Trafford last weekend, and following that up with a brace and a sublime back-heel assist for Adnan Januzaj against Newcastle United in a 4-0 victory at St James’ Park at the weekend.
Fletcher, who also played in the victory over Newcastle United spoke highly of his new team-mate, who unexpectedly made the move from Chelsea to United in January after Jose Mourinho decided to let the player leave in his bid to play for Spain in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer. Speaking to ManUtd.com about what Mata brought to the side, the Scotland international said:
“Composure. He’s an intelligent footballer who gives you a bit of everything: assists, goals.
“Also, off the ball. Although he might not be making tackles here, there and everywhere, he reads the game fantastically. Seeing him playing in front of me, the position he takes up, how he is blocking off passes, he does a good job for the team as well.
“He covers a lot of distances. If you see his stats, they are always one of the highest in the team. He is a really big player and he has settled into this squad fantastically. Once he got his first goal, he has kicked on again now and got another two.”
Fletcher disagreed that Juan Mata was similar to former United team-mate Paul Scholes, but accepted that the initial signs were good as they look ahead to the 2014/15 season, with the current season near enough over with nothing to play for, in Mata’s case as he is not eligible to play in the UEFA Champions League due to being cup tied with Chelsea in the competition. Speaking ahead of the new season, Fletcher continued by saying:
“Exactly. That’s the plan really. It’s been a disappointing season this season in the league and in the cups. Hopefully, we can kick on and he can produce form like he showed at Newcastle and we can really get back to challenging for the title next season.
“Obviously, he plays a bit more advanced than Paul. Scholesy got stuck in. Juan is a classic no.10. He controls the pace of games. He has got an eye for a killer pass. He can slow it down, take two or three touches, and take the pace out of the game. He is just a really intelligent footballer.
“There are fantastic players here and we had an opportunity to sign Juan – he has come in and been brilliant. He is improving all the time and I think his performances are getting better and better. We are starting to see the best of him now in this classic no.10 role, and long may it continue.”
With the absence of Wayne Rooney for Saturday’s match, Mata fulfilled his potential in the number 10 role, frequented often by Rooney, and he gave David Moyes a valid reason as to why Rooney needs to either be played further forward, or dropped back to midfield. It is a shame it has taken the fact that Robin van Persie being injured for Mata to be given the chance to play in his favoured role, with Rooney playing ahead of him. I believe that this is one of the reasons as to why United have been playing in the manner they have been in the last few matches.
The partnership of Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa is something that will give David Moyes a headache, as they have kind of hit it off by being able to play off each other, giving United a new dimension of attack, which has been a good thing in a season of demise. With the players much like Mata in the sense of being world class that we were promised in the summer, it is certainly an exciting time to be a Manchester United supporter.
We are hosting a Sportsman’s dinner on Friday 11th April 2014 with Manchester United legends Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside. We are raising money for Cancer Research UK and have some fantastic memorabilia to auction, including signed Ronaldo, Cantona, Rooney and Bobby Charlton items. If you’d like to attend or wish to purchase a table for your business or company please click the banner below.
By Paul Bienkowski
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