| 16.6°C Dublin

Mata is magic

PHIL JONES has revealed Juan Mata has already made a big impact at Manchester United – and not only on the pitch.

Despite having just two training sessions under his belt following a club record £37.1million transfer from Chelsea, manager David Moyes still handed Mata his first United start in the 2-0 Premier League win over Cardiff.

The midfielder even managed to play a role in a goal, given it was his magnificent crossfield pass that launched the attack that resulted in Robin van Persie netting a sixth minute opener.

His talents have not gone unnoticed in the United dressing room, which is why Jones feels an extra spark has been evident at the Aon Training Centre.

"It makes an impact in the dressing room when you sign a player of that calibre," said Jones. "He is such a talented player. He has definitely lifted spirits, especially in training.

"We want to impress and show him that we are one of the best teams to be at.

"I am sure he will be a huge asset."

Although it was understandably only seen in glimpses, Mata offered the kind of inventiveness that has been lacking from United's play too often this season.

"He sees the pass that sometimes no-one else does," said Jones.

"If he continues to make them I am sure we will soon be climbing the table.

"There is no two ways about that. He will be a fantastic player for Manchester United, hopefully for many years to come."

With Van Persie taking so little time to make an impact after 11 games on the sidelines with a thigh injury, and Wayne Rooney able to replace the Dutchman after recovering from a groin problem, it is easy to view the gloom that has gathered around Old Trafford as an over-the-top reaction to a temporary problem.

Not that Jones was paying much attention anyway.

"Daft as it sounds, we try not to take any notice of what is going on around us and concentrate on improving and getting the things right we needed to address," the versatile United man said. "Slowly but surely, I am sure we will do that and come back stronger than ever."

Nevertheless, as Moyes pointed out on Monday, a reshaping of his squad is under way.


Anderson, Fabio and Wilfried Zaha have already been allowed to leave, with a growing feeling Nani might well follow amid speculation about a loan move to Inter Milan, despite him being absent since December 7 with a hamstring injury.

Certainly, Ashley Young, who scored United's second against Cardiff, and Antonio Valencia, who headed against the bar immediately prior to Van Persie's opener, would appear to have a greater chance of playing a significant role under Moyes.

And, as former Manchester United captain Gary Neville indicated last week, Mata's arrival suggests the United boss is prepared to ditch the club's traditional tactic of playing orthodox wide-men anyway, at least on occasion.

All will become obvious as the months roll on.

For now, Jones knows United's task is the straightforward one of attempting to win matches, continuing at Stoke on Saturday.

"It is a game-by-game situation now," he said.

"All we can afford to do is look at Saturday.

"We have Stoke this weekend. We need to go there and win. Then we need to follow that up.

"We need to maintain a run. There is no point looking at the situation in any other way."