Forget new signings - Manchester United's key man is already at Old Trafford

Manchester United

Former Chelsea star Juan Mata's form last season suggests he could be worth every penny of the £37.1 million fee United paid for him.

David Moyes won't be remembered for too many of his accomplishments at Old Trafford. That's no doubt because there weren't very many of them.

But there is at least one aspect of his tenure that will hugely benefit Louis van Gaal this term.

Indeed, while Moyes was at the helm, Manchester United signed a certain Juan Mata from Chelsea for £37.1 million, unwittingly saving new boss Van Gaal a huge amount of work in the transfer market.

Not only did United save themselves the effort of an extra summer signing, of course, they also secured a Spaniard who could prove their key man this season - regardless of who else comes in.

United have been linked with the likes of Arturo Vidal, Juan Cuadrado, Daley Blind and more, while Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw have already made the move to Manchester this summer. But none of the above should be as important as Mata this term.

  TeamPosGoals / appAssists/ appDribbles Won / appAccurate Crosses / appAccurate Passes / appsSuccessful Final-Third Passes / appsAppsMins
Juan Mata Man Utd MF 0.40 0.27 0.87 0.93 50.33 18.47 15 1,230
Adnan Januzaj Man Utd MF 0.15 0.11 1.89 1.11 18.07 8.85 27 1,640
Ashley Young Man Utd MF 0.10 0.05 0.65 0.80 18.05 8.25 20 1,030
Antonio Valencia Man Utd MF 0.07 0.10 0.97 0.59 31.00 12.10 29 1,940
Tom Cleverley Man Utd MF 0.05 0 0.23 0.09 46.32 13.32 22 1,579
Michael Carrick Man Utd MF 0.03 0 0.21 0.07 62.66 16.24 29 2,413
Shinji Kagawa Man Utd MF 0 0.17 0.56 0.33 34.11 11.44 18 1,170

As Opta stats show, the 26-year-old was Manchester United's most effective midfielder last term - by far. And that's despite only moving to Old Trafford in January and often being played out of position by Moyes.

Mata averaged far more goals per game than any other United midfielder and was similarly effective in terms of his assists per game and successful final-third passes. The Spaniard's overall passing was also only bettered by Michael Carrick, while his dribbling and crossing was, again, highly effective.

Just in behind United's strikers, then, Van Gaal knows he can use a potent attacking midfielder in Mata - one that could help unlock defence after defence.

That is not to say, of course, that United don't have flaws in other areas of their squad, while the likes of Vidal and co. could still be important signings for the club.

It would be remiss of Van Gaal, however, not to realise what an important player he already has on his hands in Mata - a 26-year-old in his prime and ready to deliver week in week out for Manchester United. Watch this space.

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