Manchester United’s Juan Mata has been enjoying his new role in the starting XI alongside Alexis Sanchez during this summer’s pre-season tour. The Spaniard, who is entering his fifth full season at Old Trafford having joined the club in January 2013, has been an ever-present during United’s friendlies in the United States over the last fortnight, and has been getting to grips with playing behind the Chilean in the number 10 role.
“It’s a different shape,” said Mata talking to MUTV. “I think the manager is trying to fit all the first-team squad players into the first XI and I’ve felt okay. It’s a system that I think is very difficult to play against and in the last two games I was playing with Alexis up front. I used to play as a striker when I was a kid in the Real Madrid Academy and I like to be in the box, so it’s fine.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve played there but I think once you’ve played in there you pick up the components and you still have them. Now I just try to play that position and try to score. Yes, I’ve had more minutes than in other pre-seasons because of the number of players that are here, but I feel okay. We are playing five games, with a game tomorrow, but I feel fine. I like to play a lot, I feel better when I play so many games, so hopefully I’ll be 100 per cent ready for Leicester.
After Saturday’s 4-1 defeat to Liverpool, United play Real Madrid on Wednesday before finishing up pre-season with a trip to Germany to face Bayern Munich. Results haven’t been ideal, with United’s only victory coming in a penalty shooutout against AC Milan, but the Spaniard isn’t fazed, and is instead looking forward to Leicester City’s visit on August 10th.
“Obviously, results could have been different but I think the most important aspect in pre-season is to get in good physical condition and get ready for the first official game, which is the important one. Results are not so important now – the most important thing is to arrive [in the first game] with no injuries and in good physical and mental condition.”