Phil Neville has heaped praise on Juan Mata following his performance during Manchester United’s first leg 2-0 win over Hull City in the League Cup semi-final.
The Spaniard led the first half onslaught against Marco Silva’s side, producing a series of superb passes and neat turns, before scoring Man United’s opener from close range.
His goal – a tap in from a Henrikh Mkhitaryan header – takes his tally for this season to seven, making him United’s second top scorer this season after Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
And Neville, speaking after the game, was quick to heap praise on 28-year-old.
“Every time I’ve seen Juan Mata play for Manchester United , he either assists goals or score goals.
“He always delivers. His record is fantastic.
“Now, for someone we thought would be first out the door, he’s probably now one of the first on the team-sheet – or nearly there.”
One may have forgiven Mata for jumping ship the moment it was announced that Jose Mourinho would be manager back in June. He is the man, after all, who sold him to Man United in the first place, and it felt as if chances for the diminutive Spaniard would be hard to come by in a system that would inevitably place emphasis on steel and raw energy going forward.
As it was, Mata grabbed the challenge with both hands, working tirelessly in pre-season and eventually scoring United’s first Premier League goal of the season on the opening day against Bournemouth. Since then he has continued to improve, and supporters will be keen to see him feature regularly as the season goes on.