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Juan Mata linked to Fenerbahce this summer could continue youth conveyor belt at Manchester United

Manchester United attacking midfielder Juan Mata has reportedly opened the door to an Old Trafford exit this summer with links to Turkish club Fenerbahce, the club that both Robin van Persie and Nani left the Theatre of Dreams for in recent years. Mata has been forced out of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans by the arrival of Bruno Fernandes.

Mata has been a great player for the club since his arrival, which was the most positive aspect of David Moyes’ reign as manager of the club, apart from his sacking, of course. Since signing for United from Chelsea in January 2014, over six years ago, Mata has played 252 times, scoring 48 goals and 42 assists, which has been a big help.

This season, Mata has made just 34 appearances for United, starting 20 times with 12 of those being in cup competitions. He has scored three goals and assisted five more, which is not bad considering his lack of playing time. If this was going to be his last season at the club, he will be a big loss for the squad and the dressing room but United will move on.

Turkish outlet Sansursuz Futbol have suggested that the 32-year-old is eager to leave United this summer for the Super Lig with Fenerbahce the club interested in acquiring him. They would need to purchase the player as he signed a new contract which would keep him at United until the summer of 2021, also having the option of another year to be added.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that he will exploit the transfer market this summer, giving the indication at along with additions, there will be departures. This is a good thing as every team will need to grow. Mata’s departure could be good for the talented youth at the club. Angel Gomes could have taken advantage, had he not left.

However, with players such as Hannibal Mejbri, James Garner, and Dylan Levitt all seeking to fight for a place in the first team, Solskjaer could see a conveyor belt of talent heading his way from the youth ranks, which will strengthen United as they gain experience. Mata would leave a hole in the squad but holes can be filled.

Looking at Manchester United’s attacking depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United has some of the fastest attacking players in the Premier League this season. The departure of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the rumoured departure of Alexis Sanchez is going to create more chances for youth to shine at the club, which is something that is clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is about.

Anthony Martial has been given his old number nine shirt back, a number he wore when he had his best season at the club to date. Perhaps he can now kick on and put the last two years behind him and find the route to success with the club. Marcus Rashford is a player who has risen in stature and was chosen to play ahead of Lukaku last season.

A player who is now getting the same finishing training that Cristiano Ronaldo received at the club, with Solskjaer clearly looking to get Rashford firing in the goals. After his brace against Chelsea last week; one from the penalty spot, he’s certainly heading in the right direction to increase his goals this season, scoring 13 in all competitions last season.

Attacking midfield depth; five players able to play here, four of them likely to be rotated here during the season.

This is an area which some would include in the midfield, however, with the 4-2-3-1 formation which Solskjaer predominantly uses, this is considered part of the attack, which is why it has been included in this part of the series of squad depth articles. In this area, which in the 4-2-3-1 formation, focuses on the number ten position, or the second striker role.

There are five players that could play in this position; Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, and Alexis Sanchez, providing he remains at the club, which may not be the case with the links to Inter. Of course, Solskjaer could draft in more youth if this position becomes problematic. Lingard seems the clear starter, based on the Chelsea match.

If Pogba was played in this position, the midfield would struggle, unless the trusted players performed to the best of their abilities and found a way to deal with their roles, leaving Pogba to play a more creative role. However, with Gomes, Mata and to a point, Sanchez, Pogba may not need to play in this position.

Winger depth; seven players able to play in these position but two of those may not be suited.

Since Daniel James arrived from Swansea City for £15 million in the summer, there was a clear problem on the wing for United. The right-wing position was literally none existent with the likes of Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Martial and even Lukaku playing there. Since James arrived, there are more options with United able to utilise the pace of players.

There are seven players able to play on the wing; Martial, Rashford, James, Mata, Sanchez, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood. Five of the seven offer pace, ability, determination and hunger. Mata offers the ability to read the game, although a central position, when he plays, would be better for the squad.

James made his Premier League debut a week ago, coming on in the second half against Chelsea, scoring less than ten minutes later. His pace was problematic for Chelsea and he used his own mistake in the box to carve his name into the history books at the club. Greenwood, Chong, Martial and Rashford also have the pace, although one of the latter two will play a different role. The depth is alright here.

Striker depth; four players are able to play in this area but two of them are destined to lead the line

This is the area which despite Lukaku leaving the club this summer, could well be problematic for Solskjaer. He never replaced the Belgian and unless he has a plan to sign a free agent, will probably stick to what he has in the squad. Martial has led the line against Chelsea and Rashford is also capable of playing here.

Looking at the depth, there are other options which include Greenwood, Sanchez (if he stays), and Lingard (to a point). It may look a bit weak if you look past Martial and Rashford but for one position in the team, there are four options, with more if you look to the academy. D’Mani Bughail-Mellor has scored a few goals for the U23s already this season.

I am not suggesting that he’s ready to play for the first team, however, was Rashford ready before he scored the brace against Midtjylland back in February 2016, then following suit against Arsenal in the Premier League days later? Solskjaer has a few different options and if he tries other players out in this position, he might find that he has more.

I would suggest that this is going to be between both Rashford and Martial for the large part of the season. If Rashford leads the line, Martial could be rested with James playing on the left-wing. If Martial starts, Rashford could play on the left, or James could play there, giving Rashford a rest. It is obviously not the best but could work.

If Sanchez stays this season, I am not saying he will be a starter, but he will be an option, but if rumours are true, he has asked to leave the club and could be on his way out. Could Solskjaer sign a free agent to bolster his side? There are options, although not great ones. I think he would prefer to utilise the talented youth players in the mix.

With Rashford working on his finishing and Martial looking to overcome a turbulent time at United, it could be the winner that everyone is hoping for. There are good players in both of these two and it is about time that they showed themselves and stood up to be counted. If Solskjaer manages to turn the tide with this squad, he can do anything.

The formation above shows the depth in all four of the attacking positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation. If different formations are played, the depth will still be there but it will obviously increase/decrease in various positions. Solskjaer will have a plan of what he is aiming to achieve this season. He also has an idea of the players he will need to target either in January or next summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said that ‘attack wins you matches but defence wins you titles’. The defence is the strongest part of United’s squad with the attack being the second strongest area in the squad. The midfield has weaknesses which need to be strengthened but that could be done without money, giving youth players opportunities over time.

Obviously, supporters of the club expected major changes this summer, which was never going to happen. Every summer you see supporters demanding that players are sold etc but in most cases, it does not happen as it is not an easy thing to do. Then, toxicity comes into the fan base and people moan incessantly, which is boring.

They don’t call him “El Mago” for nothing; why Juan Mata is still important to Manchester United

Juan Mata joined Manchester United from Chelsea in January 2014 for a fee of £37.1 million. His arrival at the club was particularly notable, as he was flown from London to United’s training ground via helicopter. The diminutive Spaniards attire on the day also proved to be a teaser for what he would bring to the team; Mata’s ability on the ball is perhaps matched only by his near impeccable dress sense.

He signed a four-and-a-half year contract at the club, which was recently renewed for a further two years, with the option of a third. Mata, 31, has also been tipped to become a club ambassador upon his retirement from football, which may or may not be at United. This is in part due to his charitable contributions to the Common Goal organisation, where he is one of the most prominent members.

Mata still has a lot to offer to Manchester United, despite his inevitable decline as he approaches retirement. He offers United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær a vastly different set of skills to the other forward players at his disposal. Like most Spanish attacking midfielders, Mata possesses good ball control allied with the vision to pick out a pass and create a chance. This has earned him the nickname “El Mago” (Spanish for “the magician”).

He has often been unable to produce his best when played on the right wing, as he does not possess the natural traits associated with the United wingers of old. While he does possess quick feet to get himself out of danger when needed, Mata himself does not have the raw pace to match some of United’s other forwards. But, having never relied on sheer speed to get the better of opponents, Mata often makes use of speed of thought to outwit opposition defences.

He is perhaps also the only specialist playmaker in United’s first-team squad; there are still doubts over the best position for youth team graduates Angel Gomes and Andreas Pereira, while Jesse Lingard relies on his pace and movement off the ball when played behind the striker/s. In contrast to the energetic Lingard and robust Paul Pogba, who have previously occupied the role in Solskjaer’s United, Mata offers a certain composure and surety whenever he plays in “the hole”.

He is often able to pick out spaces to occupy in between the lines of the oppositions defensive shape and has also regularly demonstrated an awareness of where spaces might appear for his teammates as well as being instinctively able to understand how that particular teammate would be able to fully exploit this space. As a result of this, he has developed productive combinations with forward players who are looking to profit from his skills.

This is exemplified by his previous understanding with David Villa, Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba for former clubs and country, while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have combined similarly with the Spaniard during his time at United. In addition to his skills as a playmaker, Mata is also an accomplished finisher who has scored 45 goals for United in 218 appearances for the club.

He has a number of memorable goals to his name, none more so than a match-winning brace at Anfield against Liverpool in 2015 which included a stunning scissor-kick. Mata has also regularly made important contributions during important games for his previous clubs as well as for United. He has assisted goals in the finals of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and FA Cup, having also scored United’s equaliser in the 2016 edition of the latter.

Last season, Mata netted the first goal in United’s comeback win against Newcastle as well as the equaliser in the win at Juventus. Both these goals, of course, were scored from direct free-kicks, which is another feature of Mata’s play that will benefit United. He brings with him a threat from set-pieces, either directly on goal or with his ability to deliver dangerous balls for other players to attack.

United fans have previously bemoaned the team’s lack of threat from corners, even when having a height advantage over the opposition. This is evidenced by United’s return of six goals from 200 corner kicks in the Premier League last season. Mata also possesses a wealth of experience, having previously played for Chelsea as well as Real Madrid Castilla and Valencia in his native Spain.

He has also earned 41 caps for the Spanish National Team, which is no mean feat given the resources available to them, particularly in midfield and attack. Mata has collected a number of winner’s medals for his country, beginning at age-group level. His biggest achievement on the international stage is undoubtedly winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He has also enjoyed significant success at club level, having won the Copa del Rey with Valencia as well as the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with Chelsea, prior to joining United, where he has added another FA Cup and Europa League to his CV, along with an English League Cup and a Community Shield.

Mata is also a two-time winner of Chelsea’s Player of the Year award and he was also awarded the Players’ Player of the Year in 2012-13, a season which also earned him a spot in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year. He is one of a few players at United to have experienced such successes and this will be key as Solskjaer attempts to re-instil a winning mentality at the club.

Realistically, United are not going to be contenders for the 2019/20 Premier League crown. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to look to the other competitions in the hopes of bringing home his first piece of silverware as United manager. Playing in the Europa League as well as the League and FA Cups against possibly weaker opposition grants Solskjaer the opportunity to rotate his squad, bringing the fringe players into play.

Mata is likely to be used in his favoured central role in these games, especially now that United have signed the speedy and lively Daniel James to provide penetration from wide areas. This also represents an opportunity for Mata to play with and perhaps lead United teams containing youth team graduates, including the similarly diminutive and skilful Angel Gomes, the athletically gifted Tahith Chong as well as the prodigious Mason Greenwood.

This, of course, is dependent on these players remaining at the club rather than going on loan although Solskjær has already promised United fans they will see more of Greenwood this season. In closing, it is worth reiterating that Juan Mata is a classy character, both on and off the pitch. He also reportedly took a pay cut to stay at United, which benefits the club as they would not have to make further alterations to the existing wage structure.

In addition to this, Mata’s decision to stay may also play a role in influencing his compatriot David de Gea to sign a second contract renewal at the club. All in all, he is a valuable member of the squad and will be of significance on the pitch, provided he is used correctly by the manager and played alongside players who can profit from his skills and experience. At the moment, United have this in abundance.

Written by Shiven Nayager

Juan Mata to be handed three-year contract at Manchester United – reports

Manchester United are reportedly offering Juan Mata a three-year contract to remain at the Old Trafford club this summer. The 31-year-old will be out of contract at the end of the month and previously, players over the age of 30 would be offered a one year contract to renew with the club. It would seem that if this is correct, Mata will be staying at United.

This mentality, which is similar to that shown last summer when Marouane Fellaini was allowed to run his contract down, seemingly leaving the club, then re-signing on a new contract, which was short-lived after the Belgian midfielder was allowed to leave the club for Shandong Luneng Taishan FC in China during the transfer window in January.

The reports of Mata’s new deal have been reported by The Sun and The Mirror but the source of the information is a Spanish newspaper called Sport. However, The Mirror suggests that the extension is a one-year contract, which could be alongside the normal one-year clause, meaning the player could, in effect, remain at the club for two years.

If this is the case, or that the player has been handed a one-year contract only, this is the right direction for the club but only if Mata is playing a bit-part role for the club or will be playing in a more accommodation position based on his lack of pace – possibly the number ten position. Seeing him on the right-wing is not what any supporter wants to see as it has not worked out for him in that role, with him moving more centrally.

If the reports of Mata being handed a three-year contract are true when the whole direction of the club is not going to change. It was suggested that United would be taking a new direction starting this summer, targeting youth players who have the talent and ambition to play for United. However, if it is now a priority to re-sign players whose best days are behind them, it would suggest that any youthful talents would be overlooked.

United’s was of doing things needs a complete overhaul. The executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, seems to be out of his depth in terms of running the football side of things. His transfer strategy is one that has not worked, will never work and sees a lot of wasted money, putting United so far behind their rivals than they once were. With Woodward at the helm, United are heading further away from the identity they once had.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopeful that the injury crisis will start to end this week

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes to have at least three more players available as United get ready to face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday evening. For the past few weeks, United have had up to ten players on the sidelines through illness and injury.

Currently, United has Antonio Valencia (muscle), Matteo Darmian (knock), Alexis Sanchez (MCL), Phil Jones (illness), Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, and Jesse Lingard (all hamstring) on the sidelines. Anthony Martial and Nemanja Matic both made their returns from injury against Arsenal and Marcos Rojo has been on the bench for a number of recent matches.

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Solskjaer spoke about injuries during his post-match press conference after United’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates. The Norwegian caretaker manager spoke about the number of injuries he has been dealing with, which also gave opportunities to the likes of Tahith Chong, James Garner and more recently, Mason Greenwood. Solskjaer said:

“No, we don’t have to choose. Because with the injuries we’ve had lately, that’s given us a great chance to give players game time. And they are coming back, maybe for Wolves.

“But after the international break we’ll have a full squad fit and the ones who’ve come in when the regulars have been injured have done really well. We’ll be ready for that.”

On Friday, it was revealed that Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera all took part in the training session, which in itself, suggested that the trio have recovered from their hamstring injuries, which would further boost Solskjaer’s squad for the visit to the Molineux, which is certain to be a tough match for United based on the current Wolves form.

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Solskjaer will be certain to give an update on the state of his squad during his pre-match press conference, which according to the schedule of MUTV, will be broadcast live on the channel from 09:00 GMT on Friday. Whether the likes of Lingard, Herrera, and Mata have endured enough training to be involved in this important match, will be seen then.

It will give the trio four days of training, as presumably, they will have had some involvement in training on Monday, even if the players involved in the Arsenal match on Sunday did not train, also giving them the sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday ahead of the press conference, plus Friday’s session. Perhaps they could be on the bench?

Juan Mata is reportedly closing in on a new one-year contract extension at Manchester United

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata is reportedly close to agreeing on a new contract at the Theatre of Dreams. The report suggests that United and the player held positive talks last week with the 30-year-old set to commit another year at the Old Trafford club. Mata has spent five years at the club, signing in January 2014 in a £37.1 million move from Chelsea during the ill-fated David Motes era of the club, which ended months after Mata’s arrival.

It was expected that Mata would leave United as a free agent in the summer after previous reports suggested that a one-year contract was not what Mata wanted. Some links suggested Barcelona could have been a serious contender in signing the player in the summer but it could have just been hearsay. It is stated that United’s caretaker manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sat down with Mata and recommended the player was given a one-year deal with the option of another year, meaning he could remain at the club until 2021.

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A source, which could be something or nothing, reportedly stated; “[Juan] Mata has had to wait his turn but it looks like the offer is there now. Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] has told the board what he wants to happen. There have been others ahead of him but he is top of the queue now. He wants to continue his time here. There is interest elsewhere but he is happy and wants to stay long-term.” Suggesting that United could opt to keep hold of players past their best instead if reinvesting in younger, better players.

Mata currently earns a figure in the region of £170,000 each week, of which 1% is given to a charity, Common Goal. It is expected that the new one-year deal would be on similar terms. It has been suggested in the report that Mata wanted a three-year contract renewal at the Theatre of Dreams, something which does not fit the bill for players over the age of 30 with the club offering one-year contracts, with the offer of another year as a clause in the renewal. This has been in place for a number of years now.

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The Spanish attacking midfielder has been a good player for United during the past five years but for me, he is past his best. Against Liverpool on Sunday, the 30-year-old was injured and will now sit on the sidelines with a hamstring injury which could mean him being out of action for a number of weeks, depending on the actual injury sustained, which might be a tear, meaning weeks on the sidelines, or just a stretched hamstring, which could see him on the sidelines for up to a week or more.

Mata does have some worth in the team but at this stage of his career, that is not as a regular starter, coming off the bench in some matches and starting the matches against the smaller teams in the Premier League, of which many are coming up in the coming weeks and months. Mata has a good footballing mind and that is something that United needs in the team but when he features on the right-wing, the play slows down which is not what needs to be happening. United also need to heavily invest in the squad this summer.

Should Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian have their contracts renewed?

With all of the contract news coming out of Manchester United recently I felt it only prudent to examine which player’s contracts will be expiring in June 2019, at the end of the season, and give my thoughts as to whether or not each player has done enough to warrant a renewal or not.

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Ashley Young

First up, and if you’ve read my previous pieces you’ll know this to be true, is my favourite player Ashley Young. With his contract expiring in June 2019, at the end of the current season, there are reports that he will be renewing his contract soon. Per these reports, he was offered a 12-month extension but wanted a two-year deal, like the one Marouane Fellaini was given, much like Juan Mata. However, if reports are to be believed he will be accepting the 12-month extension instead.

A lot of fans believe Young to be a good squad option and you’ll be surprised to hear there are even some who think he should stay in the first team, which is absolute madness.

I, however, believe he should be shipped out as soon as possible so that other players can take his spot, such as Diogo Dalot and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. If the club needs to keep him for another year just to be sure they have a right back in place who can be relied upon then that is fair, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of other players.

If Young stays then he should most definitely be put to the side and used only if, and when, he is desperately needed. Otherwise he is collecting a wage and taking the spot of someone of higher quality because as sure as the sun rises you can be sure that Young is no longer of the quality that a Manchester United player should be, his legs are gone and his crossing is woeful, he has outstayed his welcome at the club by a good two to three years.

Final Verdict: Do not renew

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Antonio Valencia

Sitting on the opposite side of the pitch to the aforementioned Young is Antonio Valencia, another winger converted into fullback and although he is a few years younger he has admitted to needing ice on his knee every day in order to keep playing the way he does.

Much like Young on the right or left, he is also rather ineffectual on both sides and despite a few moments of brilliance offers very little to the club, especially if they are to move forward and challenge for any titles.

Valencia has not played any minutes since the 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on January 2nd, which was his one and only appearance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, so you have to wonder if, given there is no injury news, he is being phased out and prepared for release.

Back at the beginning of the season, there were reports that Jose Mourinho was unhappy with Valencia due to the defender putting on weight over the summer break and coming back in poor condition. This, combined with him needing constant icing of his knee, is reason enough for him to no longer pull on a United shirt.

It’s a sad fact that often an older and more experienced player will be kept at a club and have a detrimental impact on younger players who are fitter, healthier and just as capable. It is because of all of this that I believe Valencia should be let go, as if given the choice between only one of him and Young staying at the club until others are ready then Young is the one who should stay, although both should still leave.

With any luck, the club will opt against renewing his contract or taking up the 12-month extension they can trigger, as it will be hard for them to sell him elsewhere and get any kind of fee for him.

Final Verdict: Do Not renew

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Juan Mata

The Spanish playmaker with a heart of gold is next and as I previously mentioned he was offered a 12-month extension on his contract but he wishes to have two years instead. Mata has expressed his desire to stay at the club though and if he really does want to stay then accepting the 12-month extension would be a no brainer right?

Unlike the prior two players I do believe Mata can offer something to the club and he is a good option to have when you need something in the last 10-15 minutes as Mata does have an eye for a pass and he possesses the uncanny ability to be right where he needs to be to come up with a goal every now and then.

The issue with Mata is that he doesn’t offer much in the way of speed and is one of the slowest players at the club, although he used to be fast his legs have also gone. This is a big problem in a team that now likes to play offensive, quick attacking football, he was perfect under Mourinho when the team didn’t need much movement, but now the team needs someone like Jesse Lingard more than they need Mata. This is why he should be a last resort and late game player as he will be more effective when the opposing players are tired.

I do believe that the club should retain Mata as a squad option due to what he can offer and a 12-month extension should be all he gets, again to enable to club time to find someone else to understudy for whoever makes the right side their own.

Final Verdict: Renew, but only for 12 months.

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Matteo Darmian

I’m sure many of you read that name and the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Who?’ because to many supporters it is hard to believe Darmian is still at the club, especially as he always seems to have interest from clubs in Italy. However, it always appears that Manchester United are asking for too much for him and it puts teams off.

With a grand total of 361 minutes of football this season you would be hard pressed to name anything he has done for the team at all in the 2018/19 season. The answer, quite rightfully, is not much.

With the ability to operate as a midfielder and on both sides of defence Darmian is a relic of the Van Gaal era, a time all United fans would like to forget if not for the dull football alone. However, for the last few years, Darmian has always seemed to be used as a left back, which is rather surprising considering his lack of ability to defend.

You may very well be able to see where this is going and that is not to the good place. Darmian is currently 29  years of age and not getting any younger and the only thing he appears to have brought to the club is a pair of awful sideburns that seemed to just exist on the sides of his head without purpose. He is very much a squad player as of now and should be giving up his place for, again, some younger blood.

If the club wants to keep him as backup for the backup on the left or right then it would be better suited getting Darmian off the books and having Demetri Mitchell as the backup instead, someone who has a lot more game time this season, albeit on loan with Hearts.

Darmian, like Valencia, has an option for a further year at the end of the season and should the club wish to they will trigger the option, however, I believe they are best off letting him go because nobody is going to pay anything more than £5 million for him.

Final Verdict: Do not renew

Due to the number of players whose contracts are expiring in June, this will be part one of two.

Written by Craig Holland-Greenfield

Juan Mata: Manchester United need more consistency to win the Premier League title

Manchester United attacking midfielder Juan Mata has stated that he and his teammates needed to be more consistent in their bid to wrestle the Premier League title from Manchester City. Last season, despite United having a good start in the league, they finished 19 points behind City, which showed just how dominant they really were. Pep Guardiola certainly turned the team which finished fourth the season before into a side willing and able to compete with the likes of Chelsea, who were crowned champions that season (2016/17).

United have not won the Premier League since the 2012/13 season when Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement. United finished in their highest position post-Ferguson last season when they finished second, finishing seventh, fourth, fifth and sixth between being champions and runners-up. Mata, a player that was reported to be one of the casualties when Jose Mourinho took over the club in May 2016, becoming one of the trusted players at the club, spoke to Sky Sports News about United’s problems, saying:

“I know what Manchester United fans want, they want to win trophies, be proud of the team and enjoy us when they watch us play and we want the same. The team that wins the Premier League is the most consistent, winning points and points, week in, week out. We need to do that if we want to win.

“Obviously there is the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup, so we have many tournaments to play for and hopefully we can go to the end in all of them. We want a positive season, to try and play good football and try and win some trophies. We have this magnificent fan base, all around the world. We want to make them proud and win things for them in a good style.”

This season, the third for Mourinho, United will be expected to take on the might of City, aiming to decrease the gap between the two clubs and challenge for the title. Last season they did make a challenge but it seemed to all be over before Christmas as United lost to City in the first Manchester derby early in December. This summer has seen problems arise with around seven players already missing due to their involvement in the FIFA World Cup with their countries being three of the final four, with Mourinho suggesting the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku will be missing at the start of the season.

During the clubs pre-season tour of the United States of America, which has seen United draw 1-1 with Club America, draw 0-0 with San Jose Earthquakes and beat AC Milan 9-8 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw, also saw Antonio Valencia leave with a calf injury, being yet another player missing from the start of the season. Alexis Sanchez met up with the squad last weekend, playing in the last two matches with Nemanja Matic joining up too, suffering an injury. David De Gea and new summer signing Fred also met up with the squad on Thursday, with the pieces starting to fall into place.

When the squad left Manchester for Los Angeles almost a fortnight ago, 13 academy players were chosen as part of the squad, due to all the World Cup players being on holiday at the time. The likes of Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, James Garner, Ethan Hamilton, Demetri Mitchell, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Andreas Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, and Angel Gomes have all been given chances so far this summer, some sparingly, which is an added benefit as they get to train with some first team players. Mata spoke about the youngsters, saying:

“We don’t have a lot of players from the first team squad from last year but I think it’s great for the club to have so many youngsters. I think it speaks well for the academy and how that works that they are bringing so many players to the first team. These guys are having a chance now and they are learning so much by training with us and realising what Manchester United means.”

United will face Liverpool in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday (kick off 22:05 BST in the United Kingdom), seeking to build upon the victory, albeit on penalties, over AC Milan on Thursday morning. Obviously, this is just a pre-season encounter and means very little but any match against Liverpool should be taken seriously as if they win, the fans will be using it as a bragging right and if they lose, it will be a meaningless friendly. United will also face Real Madrid in the early hours of Wednesday morning which will be the end of the USA part of the tour, before facing Bayern Munich in Germany.

Manchester United must solve the right-wing conundrum this summer

Manchester United have struggled to find a consistent right-winger for quite a long time now. The likes of Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, although useful options have all failed to live up to the expectations of that role. When United signed Alexis Sanchez in the January transfer window, most fans considered his arrival as an automatic solution to that problem. The Chilean international had previously operated in a similar role while at Serie A outfit Udinese and La Liga giants Barcelona.

Prior to that, Martial was in a fine fettle, probably his best run of form since joining United. At 83.5 minutes-per-goal involvement, he was only behind Sergio Aguero on 72.3 minutes and Mohamed Salah on 73.9 minutes. With silky feet and the ability to weave past defences, the 22-year-old offers a real attacking threat for United, causing all manner of problems for defenders. When shifted to the right side, Martial becomes entirely a different player and fails to exert as much influence as he does coming off from the left side of the attack.

On his Premier League debut, Sanchez was played on the left, with Martial moving to the right side; the result was an embarrassing loss in the hands of Mauricio Pochettino’s men. Mourinho kept deploying the duo in a similar fashion whenever he played them together, however, Martial was never to regain the momentum he started the season with. His dip in form caused him a place in the starting eleven, giving Lingard and Mata the opportunity to vie for more minutes. Lingard took the chance with both hands, establishing himself as a key player for Mourinho.

His blistering pace and the nous to go with it in terms of picking and timing his runs made him an ideal option for his manager and a makeweight for an increasingly peripheral Martial. It was only a matter of time before the current transfer circus hit almost every media outlet with reports that the French attacker is resigned to departing Old Trafford. Martial will, however, not the only player needing reassurances of his future at United; Mata may find himself in a similar situation, and one that he will be familiar with prior to his departure from Stamford Bridge four years ago.

The arrival of Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk and the reports that United are looking to sign a right-winger this summer may push the Spaniard further down the pecking order. Earlier in January, United triggered the option for one more year in Mata’s contract. At the time, Mourinho stated that the 30-year-old attacking midfielder was integral to his plans, and scoffed at the media for claiming he’d sell the attacker when he joined United. Mata has deservedly worked hard to earn a place under his current and former Chelsea manager, quelling any lingering doubts of his importance to the squad.

Out of his 38 appearances for United last season, 32 of those were as a right-winger; his lack of pace nonetheless, stresses the need for a natural right-winger to add in the depth of attack. The Spaniard may, however, find consolation in the fact that his manager has publicly and perhaps privately assured him of a major role to play at United; a look at how the gaffer has used him especially in key fixtures, however, points to a different story altogether.

Written by George Oduor

Why the special Juan still has plenty to offer Manchester United next season

Despite Manchester United triggering a clause in Juan Mata’s contract back in January to keep the Spaniard at the club until June 2019, there has been much media speculation in the media that Mata will leave in the summer transfer window, but does the 30-year-old still have something to offer United going in to next season? And is there really anything in it?

First arriving in the Premier League back in August 2011, Mata signed for Chelsea after four impressive seasons at Valencia. In two and a half seasons, Mata went on to make 135 appearances for the blues, scoring 33 goals and putting in a string of great displays. Helping led Chelsea to FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League glory, with Mata twice being voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year. However, after struggling for game time in his third season, then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho allowed him to leave.

This left the door open for David Moyes to sign up the Spaniard and Mata joined United for a then club record fee of £37.1 million. Yet despite putting in some avid performances and bringing back some positivity to the United faithful, he was unable to save Moyes season.

The following two seasons, under the tenure of former United manager Louis van Gaal, would see Mata become an important player for the club. With the Spaniard helping United secure UEFA Champions League football for the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in Van Gaal’s first season at the club. Making 35 first team appearances and netting nine Premier League goals, including a wonder goal against Liverpool at Anfield. In the 2015/16 campaign, Mata continued to be a key player for United, making 54 appearances and scoring a vital goal at Wembley as United beat Crystal Palace to win the FA Cup.

Although after it was announced that Jose Mourinho would be taking over at United ahead of the 2016/17 season, there was much speculation in the media that Mata wouldn’t have a future at Old Trafford. Yet this wasn’t the case at all and this uncertainty was put to bed with the Spaniard gaining the trust of his manager, starting 34 matches and putting in some stellar performances.

Mata has continued to be a trusted member of Mourinho’s squad this season making 40 appearances. However, after only starting three of United’s last eight matches this season, there are questions marks around whether or not Mata still has a future at Old Trafford. Whether or not there is anything in these reports remains to be seen, but if Mata does stay with United next season there is no reason why the 30-year-old can’t be an important part of the squad.

In 28 Premier League appearances this season Mata has scored three goals and managed five assists, with an average player rating of 6.87. These are not the sort of statistics one might associate with a Manchester United player, who plays predominantly in an attacking role and on the eye it would also appear that Mata has regressed this season.

Yet these numbers are slightly misleading with Mata working tirelessly whenever he’s been called upon this season, constantly drifting in from the right-wing and finding pockets of space, dropping deep to pick up loose balls and always looking to make dangerous runs in behind, at times this season it’s been Mata who has made the team tick. Despite Mata’s numbers maybe not comparing with some of the other attacking options at Mourinho’s disposal, he offers the team something different.

With a great understanding of the game, bags of technical ability and the eye for a killer pass. There is no reason why Juan Mata can’t have a future at Old Trafford and be a valuable asset to Mourinho and too Manchester United.

Written by Jamie Mackinlay

copyright: JW