Manchester United showed how good they can play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer today.
Everyone played well as the Red Devils dominated Norwich City in their Premier League encounter.
Scoring four goals and keeping a clean sheet is a good feat for a side that has struggled to close out games this season. Although Solskjaer strengthened his defence with the additions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, United are still suspect at the back.
Juan Mata was one of the more surprising inclusions today because he hasn’t played regularly this season. It wasn’t that big of a surprise, though, given how poor Jesse Lingard has been and Andreas Pereira was also announced as a starter for the game.
To his credit, the Spaniard put in an excellent shift against the Canaries and it definitely gave Solskjaer something to think about ahead of a busy period in terms of fixtures.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Mata made sure to make note of the fact he hasn’t played a lot of games this term: “I enjoyed today, it was a great performance from everyone. It is a good example of how good we can play. We need to play like this on a consistent basis if we want to get a Champions League spot.
“Coming from the right I have space to cross with my left foot. Luckily today Marcus (Rashford) and Anthony (Martial) put the ball in the net.
“It is frustrating when I don’t play. I am still hungry to help my team with goals and assists. Like every player, when I don’t play I am not happy. But I have to always be available for the team.”
Mata signed a new contract at United in the summer, so you’d think signing that he would have had an idea how much playing time he would get this season under Solskjaer? Isn’t that part of the negotiation process?
Former United full-back Gary Neville recently said the inclusion of Mata could prompt a turnaround at Old Trafford, and that is exactly what we witnessed today. Perhaps not over time but Neville appears to be right.
“They have had problems against teams who essentially defend deep, who are compact,” he told Sky Sports in December.
“Even last week against Everton when Everton got into their shape: So the games that have been causing problems have been this type of game.
“But if United are going to try and get into positions where Tottenham and Chelsea are looking to get to, they have to start winning these games.
“The players have got a real problem, they have not got enough creativity in the final third when they play against a deep defence, it’s as simple as that.
“They prefer counter-attacking, so that’s an issue. It’s a problem for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got to try and get around it.
“He’s not used Juan Mata that much but he is the one who potentially could find passes in tight spaces, so whether he could be introduced. Something like that might change it in these types of games.”
Do you agree with Neville’s previous assessment of Mata?