Tuesday 12 December 2017

Juan Mata focus: So how did United's record signing do on his debut?

Manchester United's Juan Mata (L) looks on as teammate Robin van Persie celebrates scoring against Cardiff City during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford
Manchester United's Juan Mata (L) looks on as teammate Robin van Persie celebrates scoring against Cardiff City during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford

Club-record signing Juan Mata enjoyed a successful debut for Manchester United in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Cardiff. Here, we look at how the Spaniard fared on his first outing for the Red Devils.

POSITIONING

The main talking point around Mata's arrival at Old Trafford has been about how David Moyes will fit the midfielder into his starting XI. Against Cardiff he started in the centre just off Robin van Persie, but the former Chelsea man did not stick there. He was given more or less a free role, allowing him to drift to both flanks, up alongside Van Persie or deeper in midfield. He looked comfortable in all four positions.

ENERGY

Mata barely paused to catch his breath and did not look tired when he came off with five minutes left, which was surprising as he was the busiest player on the pitch. By the end of the first half he was taking free-kicks and corners. When he dropped back he always demanded the ball off United's deeper-lying midfielders or the two centre-backs. He mucked in with defensive duties during the early stages of the second half when United were under the cosh. Mata took a couple of knocks from Gary 'The Pitbull' Medel, but that did not stop him from putting in a shift for the reigning champions.

PASSING

Mata showed why United paid £37million for him in the first half when he picked out Patrice Evra with a huge 50-yard pass in the move that eventually led to the first goal of the night. He also laid the ball off to Ashley Young in the build-up to United's second. Mata kept popping up just outside the box looking to feed the ball into Van Persie and later substitute Wayne Rooney. If it had not been for a couple of late challenges, Mata would have had another assist.

SHOOTING

Mata scored on his debut for Chelsea three years ago, but he was unable to do the same against Cardiff. The former Valencia man did not even have a shot until the 62nd minute. That effort flew straight into the arms of David Marshall. Mata's role was to provide, rather than threaten the goal himself. His only other effort was blocked by Ben Turner.

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