Ralf Rangnick used Juan Mata as a No. 10 in his farewell appearance at Old Trafford.
This was Manchester United’s final home match of the season. Old Trafford welcomed Brentford for the match, which the Red Devils won convincingly by a score of 3-0 after 90 minutes.
In order to prepare for the match, Ralf Rangnick made a number of unexpected changes to his team. Juan Mata was given his first start of the season, despite the fact that the Spaniard is expected to leave in the summer.
There were many factors to consider, but “he trained hard and showed strong performance,” Rangnick noted in his explanation for the choice. As a result, I paired him with Bruno [Fernandes] a little to the left of Bruno [Fernandes].”
When Mata had the ball, he showed great quality throughout the match. He didn’t try too many Hollywood passes and instead seemed to enjoy making modest contributions all over the pitch by linking with his teammates.
It was only six of 62 passes that the Spaniard misplaced during the Bees’ game against him. He served as a sort of ‘glue’ in tight places, helping Manchester United hold possession better than normal.
When Juan Mata was played as a no.10 in his preferred position, it was the first time this season that Manchester United had made more than 400 passes in the first half of a Premier League match.
For the majority of his tenure in Manchester, the 34-year-old has been unable to access that area. Since Fernandes’ arrival from Sporting CP in January 2020, he has dominated the role.
The players around Mata have forced him to play in deeper or wider spaces whenever he has appeared recently. In fact, he excels in his favorite position once he’s on the field.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it’s become a repeating theme among United players, and it will come to a stop once Erik ten Hag joins the club in the summer. Square pegs have been put in round holes for far too long.
Another appropriate example is Paul Pogba. As Mata prepares to leave Manchester United at the end of the season, France international Franck Ribery is expected to follow him out of Old Trafford as well.
On the surface, Paul Pogba appears to be an ideal left-winger in a 3-5-2 formation. Juventus used to make the most of his talents under Antonio Conte, but since going to Manchester United he’s played almost exclusively in a midfield two.
His performances for France as a pair appear to be of a high caliber, however he is most often paired with N’Golo Kante, who is capable of effectively covering the ground and performing the defensive duties of two men.
Mata has rarely been able to play in the position he prefers. Paul Pogba has only seldom played as a member of a team that he enjoys playing in, according to the statistics. Supporters may be left wondering what could have been if they had stayed for the full season.
It’s been a rough few weeks for Fernandes as well. How much of that may be attributed to the fact that he’s continuously switching roles?
His position as No. 10 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pivotal and influential but gradually, his role has been shifted to help his teammates and the system around him.
In the 4-2 win over Leeds United in February, his first goal in a red shirt came against Brentford on Monday. A center midfielder and forward have been his primary roles at that time. Mata was forced to play off the left against the Bees in order to accommodate him.
If Manchester United are to learn from their mistakes, they must ensure their finest players are given the best possible opportunities to thrive. He can’t let Mata and Pogba’s new teammates face the same fate as others who left the club under his tutelage.