Juan Mata deserves the chance to be the solution to Manchester United problem vs Liverpool FC

It will be five years ago in March that Juan Mata wrote his name into Manchester United folklore. Scoring a match-winning double at Anfield tends to do that for a United player, just ask Diego Forlan.

Mata’s Old Trafford career has gone in peaks and troughs since then, although he’s not alone in that regard, but as United head back to Merseyside this weekend the Spaniard has rediscovered something approaching his best form.

All season Mata has been battling with Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira for the role as the most advanced central midfielder in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s system, but rather than any of that trio making the spot their own, it has tended to be a case of hoping one of them is in some kind of form.

Lingard has failed to grasp his chances this term and while Pereira has played well of late he can lack for consistency and drifts out of games. After impressive displays against Norwich and Wolves this week Mata has found his spark again and he deserves a run in the team to try and show, at 31, he still has something to offer this side.

His lack of pace has been held against him in discussions over who is best to fill that role, but the front three more than make up for that. What Mata has is the intelligence and vision to find them on a regular basis, which should be a tantalising prospect. He also showed enough of a turn of foot to stay clear of the Wolves defence to score at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

The stats also work in Mata’s favour when comparing him with Lingard and Pereira this season. He has played 198 fewer minutes than Lingard in all competitions this season and 675 fewer than Pereira, yet he has four assists to Lingard’s one and Pereira’s two.

There might be an element of fortune to those numbers, given his expected assists per 90 minutes is 0.19, the same as Periera, to Lingard’s 0.9, but Mata is playing more key passes per 90 minutes than any of his rivals for that position. He also two goals, compared to one each for Lingard and Pereira.

Unsurprisingly Mata has more passes per 90 minutes, averaging 51, that’s seven more than Pereira and 13 more than Lingard.

The former Valencia playmaker was once one of the best No.10s in the Premier League, but the game has changed since he was starring for Chelsea. It’s faster and more dynamic now. But Mata can still have a role to play and if he’s given a run in this side he could prove it. Solskjaer was full of praise for him after his defining contribution helped see off Wolves.

“He (Mata)’s scoring goals, creating goals,” Solskjaer said. “He gets us playing, gets the rhythm, finds pockets and gets on the ball. And he’s an absolute fantastic human being to have in and around dressing room. He never complains.

“Of course, he’s not happy that he’s frustrated [at not playing as much] but he doesn’t knock on my door and complain and sap energy of everyone.

“He makes me understand when I see him training, because he trains absolutely fantastic every single day.”

That training has put Mata in a rich vein on form at the moment. He’s earned a shot at making the attacking midfield position his own at United.

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