Juan Mata made his eagerly anticipated debut for Manchester United last night as the Premier League champions secured a 2-0 win to notch up 1000 points in the history of the division at Old Trafford.
David Moyes wasted no time with a settling in period as Mata was thrown straight into United’s midfield and the early signs are encouraging.
Goals from the returning Robin Van Persie and the inconsistent Ashley Young stole the headlines but Mata put in a solid display as he adjusts to a new team, a new system and new players.
It seems as though Moyes is going to use him in a central role, just in behind a main striker which allows him to roam the space in between the opposition’s midfield and defence.
He drifted all over the pitch last night effectively and was able to offer options and outlets to different players in important positions all over the pitch. That ability to move and constantly drift makes him a very difficult player for the opposition to keep tabs on and mark.
He secured his first assist with Young’s goal, achieved a respectable passing percentage of 87% and completed more passes than any other United player on the night.
A lot has been made of the £37 million fee United paid for Mata in the middle of the season but he promises to be a very special player for Moyes’ side as they look to secure a top four finish by the end of the season.
The real test will come when Moyes tries to fit Wayne Rooney, Van Persie and Mata into the same time because that’s something, which may force the Spaniard’s role to change slightly.
However, there are plenty of positives to come from Mata’s performance and improvements to follow. Here’s what United fans made of his debut.
On #Mata. Will shine given time and platform, but can't shake the feeling United have bought a Mercedes to fix a hole in the roof.— Paul Macdonald (@PaulMacdGoal) January 28, 2014
"@MicTurnerSA: Didn't watch the Man Utd game, how was Mata's debut?" Very successful debut— AyrinAnnwillRiffel (@AyrinRiffel) January 29, 2014
A comfy debut for Mata an emotional come back home for babbyface assassin. Van is back like he never left. Waza still is amazing #ManUtd— Jim ngige (@NgigeNjoroge) January 29, 2014
RVP Returns/Scores Mata Debut/Effect Young Scores Wazza Return Cleansheet Win at OT Sir Alex Happy Moyes/Fans Happy #mufc— H (@hit4fun) January 29, 2014
It was great to hear about Mata's successful debut for United last night. Keep it up, chap!— Olga (@Melody_Muse) January 29, 2014
image: © Ben Sutherland