Juan Mata is "mad" with himself after failing to influence Manchester United's 3-0 defeat against Liverpool, an encounter that ended the Red Devils' chances of capturing Champions League football next season.
The Spanish midfielder, who was signed by David Moyes in January, updated his Grada360 blog with honest thoughts on the previous 24 hours. Despite his recent arrival, the former Chelsea player took the loss rather badly, speaking directly to his new fans with an optimistic outlook:
The storm will pass and the sun will rise again. I have no doubt.
[...] There are no words to describe your support in the stadium. In games like yesterday it makes me mad not being able to give you what you deserve. I know there is nothing I can say right now, but at least I want you to know how I feel.
Mata's performance was stunted from kick-off, as Moyes once again decided to deploy the excellent No.10 in a wide role. The 25-year-old neither flaunts the outright pace to be a winger nor does he possess the directness needed to continually skip beyond opponents.
He's a quick-thinker, someone who boasts excellent vision and the ability to alter momentum with a smart touch rather than physical attributes. All three of Mata's assists have come from central positions, per WhoScored.com, where he is most effective.
The former Valencia playmaker's failure to score in seven games for United shouldn't come as a surprise. Moyes' strategy ensures Mata remains away from goalscoring positions and is often forced to chase opposition who are always going to blow past him on the flank.
Mata's misuse is reminiscent of Shinji Kagawa's fall from grace since joining the club. The Japanese hero has endured a similar story—playing on the wing despite being a match-changing No.10—and may have run out of chances to impress after a forgettable two seasons with the club.
Moyes' decision to spend £37 million on Mata looked a useful piece of business during the winter. Even so, the Scottish boss continues to limit his player's creativity by forcing him into unfamiliar territory. Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp criticised Moyes for this during his Daily Mail column after the match:
I’m a big fan of Juan Mata, but you don’t spend £37m on a player and play him out of position.
United have always had fantastic wingers but Mata is not a winger, and you make yourself look worse by playing him there. He needs to play in that No 10 position, but how do you sacrifice a man you’re paying £300,000 a week?
While Mata certainly wasn't the worst of a terrible bunch—that award would be split between Marouane Fellaini, Rafael and Robin van Persie—United fans have a right to feel concerned about how he is being deployed.
It is difficult to suggest many managers would use Mata on the flank. For Moyes to try his new signing on the wing is acceptable, for him to continue utilising the player there once he struggles is inexcusable.
It may take an alternative coach to get the best out of Mata, who is more than capable of regularly winning games if he hits top form. Right now, United supporters may settle for him winning any game at all.
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