While the reports are more than likely to be wide of the mark, it does raise the question about what the future holds for Mata under Louis van Gaal.
So far this season, Mata has been ineffective and isolated in Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system as there has been a tendency for Manchester United’s centre-backs to miss the midfield out by sending long balls up to the attack. By doing so, Mata has found it difficult to exert an authority on the game.
Due to his form, there have been questions asked about whether Mata will rendered dispensable by Van Gaal as he is unable to field every one of the likes of Rooney, Van Persie, Falcao, Di Maria, Mata and Januzaj in the same formation.
After the sale of Shinji Kagawa to Borussia Dortmund this summer, it’s highly unlikely the possibility of letting Mata leave in January is even being considered by United. However, Mata won’t be considered a guaranteed starter in whatever new formation Van Gaal decides to use.
When fit, Di Maria, Rooney and Falcao are guaranteed to be in the starting XI but the other places will be up for grabs so it will be a bit of a bingo as to who else will start. Mata won’t be afraid of that. Having been a member of a Spain side that has boasted arguably the greatest crop of midfielders in the same generation, Mata will be well versed to rotation and competition for places, which bodes well for him as there’ll be a lot of competition this season at United.
Mata’s inclusion all depends on what sort of game Van Gaal wants to play. If slowing the game down somewhat to concentrate more on possession, then Mata is the perfect player. If speeding the game up to hit on the counter-attack is what Van Gaal wants, then Januzaj is a better fit.
Circumstances and context will dictate Mata’s role this season but rumours United are considering selling him this January seem far fetched. That being said, the Spaniard may find himself fighting for a place in Van Gaal’s starting XI more often than not.