What’s up with Juan Mata?

We are sure that, first of all, you will thank us for resisting the temptation to go with a disgustingly unoriginal headline like ‘What’s the Mata with Juan?.’ It’s just been done too many times.

But there is a problem with the Manchester United star. He joined the club for £37.1m and, for that money, you expect a game changer.

While Mata has a very decent scoring return at Manchester United (8 goals in 21 games) he hasn’t found a regular starting berth in the team this term. Furthermore, he keeps missing the opportunity to cement his preferred place at number 10 when the opportunity presents itself.

With Wayne Rooney suspended for 3 games this was Juan’s time to shine – to show Louis van Gaal that he was undroppable as the team’s playmaker. But he was drab against Everton, anonymous against West Brom and may not even make the team for Chelsea – we certainly wouldn’t leave a player like Falcao on the bench and Mata in the team on this form.

Most worryingly, if Mata can’t show his class against mid-table opposition like WBA then what chance has he got of making the difference in a big title decider or a Champions League tie?

To be frank, we have been worried about him from day one. He doesn’t fulfil an obvious function for United. He’s slight, slow and goes missing way too often. He lacks the athleticism to affect the game when his team doesn’t have the ball. And he’s supposed to be majestic with the thing at his feet but we just haven’t seen it enough.

What’s more Mata can only play through the middle. He’s not quick or athletic enough to work the flanks. We always thought he might be suited to a central midfield role but neither David Moyes nor Van Gaal has trusted him there.

Bringing out the crystal ball for a minute, we don’t see Mata in Manchester United’s future unless Louis decides to play him in the centre of midfield. At 26 he is at his peak and the club will surely cash in before his value drops even further. Although he did well at Chelsea we think that he’s a better fit for Italy or Spain where technique trumps physicality and pace.

Mata seems like the consummate gentleman and most United fans would want him to prove his worth at the club. But we just can’t envisage him making the grade in this team.

Let’s have the thoughts of United fans on this one. Will Mata become a United great?