Juan Mata Says Manchester United Are Not Getting the Best out of Him

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Manchester United's Juan Mata is held back by  West Brom's Youssuf Mulumbu  during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United at The Hawthorns Stadium in West Bromwich, England, Saturday, March 8, 2014.  (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Juan Mata has expressed his desire to play in a No. 10 role for Manchester United, admitting he isn't a "proper winger."

The recently transferred Spaniard has largely started on the right flank during his six appearances for the Red Devils, a position he isn't most comfortable with, as revealed to BT Sport via ESPN:

Right now I am playing on the right but to [be] honest I don't see myself as a proper winger.

I love to play between the lines as a No.10, come inside, that is where I feel comfortable to play; to keep in touch with the ball because I love to play in possession and with the ball.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28:  Juan Mata of Manchester United competes with Kim Bo-Kyung of Cardiff City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford on January 28, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mata certainly believes a central role is his best position, something that is difficult to argue against. The former Chelsea star won two consecutive Player of the Year awards in this role for the Blues, racking up 12 goals and 12 assists at Stamford Bridge last year, per WhoScored.com.

He has provided three assists for United so far, each of which has come from central positions. Mata lacks the speed and power to play a traditional winger's role and isn't the type to hit the byline before sending crosses into the box, as highlighted by his movement and passing areas during the side's 3-0 win over West Brom, per FourFourTwo's Stats Zone.

David Moyes is struggling to slot Mata into his favoured position due to Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie occupying central-attacking roles, a dilemma many acknowledged when the former Valencia man first rocked up at Old Trafford.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Robin Van Persie of Man United celebrates with Juan Mata after scoring from the spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on February 22, 2014 in London, Eng
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Mata is excited to play alongside individuals of this pedigree and emphasises his role is to ensure the duo score plenty of goals, per ESPN's report:

When we talk about them, we are talking about two of the best strikers in the world. Wayne is one of the best in the history of England, for sure, and Robin is the captain of Holland, so it is an honour for me to try and assist them because almost every chance you create is a goal.

Van Persie has appeared petulant in recent times and could be on his way out of the club, a transfer that would suit Mata.

The Dutch striker criticised his teammates after the loss to Olympiakos, reported by Craig Hope of the Daily Mail, and recently reacted badly to being substituted at the Hawthorns, as noted by Alan Hansen in his column for The Telegraph.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22: Robin Van Persie, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United stand over a free kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park on February 22, 2014 in London,
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The former Arsenal striker's departure could see Rooney pushed into a more attacking role with Mata dropping into his preferred spot just behind the forward.

United fans will be hugely wary of repeating Shinji Kagawa's failure to make an impact at the club, which comes after he was whisked out of his No. 10 role for Borussia Dortmund and pushed out wide at Old Trafford.

Moyes may be accommodating Mata by any means possible until the end of this season, which is expected to bring many changes to the club. The lack of quality personnel could dictate Moyes' decision to start the player out wide right now, as there's no denying Mata is more suited to the role in which he has already excelled during his Premier League tenure.

Even so, both the Spaniard and his team will be pleased with the contribution he has made so far. Mata was recently named United Player of the Month, as noted on the club's Twitter account: 

Mata also confirmed he enjoyed the recent win over Pepe Mel's struggling Baggies with a tweet after the match:

It will be interesting to see how Moyes uses Mata over the coming season. United lose their natural width when he begins on the flank and are forced to congregate in the middle, allowing the opposition to clog space with additional numbers. Rafael got forward with greater intent against the Baggies, movement that afforded Mata time to move in on goal.

The Spaniard produces his best work on the edge of the opposition's box. He is excellent at slipping colleagues into space and using his intelligence rather than physical attributes. This is emphasised when he remains on the wing, a position that yields little success for United's latest signing.


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