How Juan Mata must improve for Manchester United this season

Juan Mata will be a key player for Manchester United this season.

After a nightmare 2013-14 campaign Manchester United are looking to return to winning ways this season under Luis van Gaal.

With a new philosophy, new formation and new faces there is a real buzz at Old Trafford as the summer comes to a close and the new season gets underway.

One man who looks set to thrive under van Gaal is Juan Mata, the club's record signing who joined from Chelsea in January for £37million.

The Spaniard faced a tough start to life in Manchester under David Moyes, but van Gaal's 3-5-2 system should put him in a position to succeed.

Statistically speaking there are a few ways in which Mata must improve next season if he is to rediscover the form that saw him named Chelsea's player of the season two years ago.

   2013-14 AppsMinsTouches per gamePass accuracy (%)AssistsGoals
Juan Mata 28 2,064 65.29 88.66 6 6

On the face of it Mata did not have a bad season at all last year. His pass accuracy is fantastic for an attacking midfielder, and six goals and six assists is by no means a poor return. However, you would expect more from a £37million signing.

   2012-13 AppsMinsTouches per gamePass accuracy (%)AssistsGoals
Juan Mata 35 2,744 68.43 85.20 12 12

With Chelsea in 2012-13, however, Mata was far more effective. He doubled his tally for both goals and assists and was recognised as perhaps the Premier League's top play-maker.

Mata's drop-off in performance last season can be attributed to his falling out of favour with Jose Mourinho and then having to adjust to a new team at Manchester United. At both clubs he was often played out of position, but in the upcoming campaign he will occupy his favoured role in the middle of the park.

 2013-14 Chances createdBig chances createdShotsShots on targetConversion rateShot accuracy
Juan Mata 63 9 40 12 15.00 30.00
 2012-13 Chances createdBig chances createdShotsShots on targetConversion rateShot accuracy
Juan Mata 95 14 70 24 17.14 34.29

Where Mata disappointed last season was in the amount of chances he laid on for his teammates, which is essentially the main job of a play-maker.

He created 32 fewer chances in 2013-14 than in the previous campaign, and five fewer clear-cut scoring opportunities.

The Spaniard also failed to get himself into scoring positions as regularly as he did for Chelsea in 2012-13. He had far fewer shots at goal last season and was less accurate than he was at his best.

Although the discrepancies in his shot accuracy and conversion rates are not particularly wide, they provide some evidence as to why his scoring tally was halved last season.

Mata has the ability to be the best player in a title-winning Manchester United team this season if he returns to his form from 2012-13. At his best he is almost unplayable as he can hurt the opposition in such a variety of ways.

Although he was an effective player last season, he simply must improve his eye in front of goal and rediscover his knack for racking up assists if United are to have a shot at glory next season.

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