Juan Mata has started every game for Manchester United this season, mostly at right wing but, in the PSV loss the Spaniard started as an attacking midfielder for Louis van Gaal’s men.
In an interview with United Review, the Spaniard speaks of his challenge to keep his first team spot, given his top class team mates. He could lose his place if he was to take it for granted or put in a weak performance.
Below are his comments prior to the PSV Eindhoven match up in the Champions League.
The competition for starting places in the front four seems fierce this season – how do you see it?
It is tough but I think every player needs that competition to grow as a player. You must not fall asleep and take your position for granted. The competition helps us a lot.
Does it help when you play in the same role for an extended period?
It helps. You get more used to the players, you get more used to the movement of your team-mates, but I also think it’s good for me and any player to be able to play in different positions, not just on the right or left or as a no.10. I have played in those positions a lot in my career but I think I can play in every position offensively in the team and I think that’s good for me to grow as a player.
You’ve been operating mainly on the right-hand side this season – how have you found that?
I’ve really enjoyed it. Obviously I am not a winger, if you imagine an old-school winger who is trying to play one-against-one and to cross the ball. I try to find my spaces from the right and cut inside and in behind, and try to assist my team-mates. I really enjoy it there. I think it’s very important for us to create little triangles on the wings with myself and Matteo [Darmian] and then with the midfield. That’s what the manager wants and we can play inside and outside. It’s good for us to be able to create chances for the striker.
How easy does it make your job when a player like Wayne Rooney is the focal point of the attack?
Obviously it’s easy when you have players like him there. He is moving all the time and trying to make a line for your pass. I was very happy for him after his three goals against Club Brugge, but he’s not a striker that just scores, he does a lot of work for the team offensively and also to protect the ball.
Memphis has started every match – how have you found playing with him and how far can his talent take him?
He’s very talented, everyone can see that. He is still young so he has to take things step by step, but I think he will do great. He’s a good guy and is settling in very well in the team and into the English culture and league. Hopefully he will be very important for us. He has all the qualities to be a successful player here. He’s quick, he shoots on goal with both feet and he’s intelligent. He’s a great player, but he knows that he has to keep improving and keep going.
Manchester United travel to St. Mary’s this weekend to play Southampton in the Premier League.