Mata says he wants to be deployed as a central attacking midfielder under the new United boss.
Juan Mata has revealed that he wants to play behind the striker, in a central attacking midfield role, in Louis van Gaal’s first season in charge of Manchester United.
Mata was often forced to play out wide by David Moyes, but Van Gaal has deployed him behind the strikers since taking charge of United this summer and Mata says he is enjoying the switch.
“If I play behind the two strikers I feel comfortable,” Mata said.
“I’ve played on the left or right, but my best season was when I played in that position at Chelsea under Rafael Benitez.”
To accommodate Mata in this position, Van Gaal has already shown his tactical nous by adopting a 3-4-1-2 formation in his side’s pre-season friendlies so far.
The switch of formation has meant that the Spaniard has become the creative fulcrum for the side and he has thrived in his new role – scoring against Roma in a 3-2 win during the Red Devil’s most recent outing.
The former Chelsea man has largely impressed since joining Old Trafford, but there was still a feeling more was to come last season and Mata is optimistic that Van Gaal is the manager to get the best out of him and the rest of the squad.
“As a player you want a coach like this, always demanding more, to play better and to try to win the games earlier or in a different way.
“I’ll try my best and hopefully we can play good football and I can do assists and score goals, because that’s what I have to do.
“We’re starting a new season with a new manager and we aim to put the club back where it deserves to be – which is fighting at the top.
“Things are changing and everyone is finding their new role in the team.”
United finished down in seventh position last season and the task ahead of Van Gaal will not be easy, although there is ample quality in the squad to allow him to achieve their target of getting back to past glories.
Even in Mata’s position there are several options who the Dutchman could use, even though the 26-year-old is currently his first choice.
The likes of Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera all have the ability to play in the attacking midfield role if the Spaniard’s form drops.
However, United fans will be encouraged by his recent statement and if he can rekindle the form that made him a major success at Stamford Bridge then United will have one of the most threatening attacking line-ups in the league and will surely be competing at the right end of the table come May.
How crucial will Mata be for United this season?