United walked away from Anfield with a vital three points in what was just their fifth away victory of the season, with Mata playing a pivotal role in the triumph.
Latching on to fellow countryman Ander Herrera‘s pass in the first half, the midfielder turned ‘inverted right winger’ slotted the ball calmly past Simon Mignolet to give the visitors a deserved lead.
His second was even better, acrobatically volleying past the helpless Belgian to double the lead, and Carrick had nothing but good things to say about Mata after the game.
“He has always been a great player,” Michael explains. “He has always been important to us because he brings so much to the team, and so much ability. You have seen it all there, in terms of what he brings.
“I thought he was terrific. His overall play was good and he obviously scored both goals. The first one was a really good finish and the second was sensational, so he had a good day.
“He is just so clever. He moves the ball, takes up good positions, he is dangerous and he is just so intelligent. He has such a slight frame so he is not going to have a physical presence but he more than makes up for that with his general ability and how he plays the game. He is just a joy to watch.”
Mata has occasionally been criticised for a lack of impact in his opening 12 months at Old Trafford, but his two strikes at Anfield took him to 13 goals overall for the club from just 20 shots on target.
He has also often struggled in games away from Old Trafford and against Spurs last week made his first start for the club in over a month, but Carrick says nobody ever questioned the 26-year-old’s ability.
“Listen, all players have ups and downs throughout their careers and you can’t look at any player and say any different,” Carrick added, referring to Mata’s recent absence.
“You can’t look past his quality; that is why he is here and he is here for a reason. He is such a good player and performances like that don’t surprise me as that is exactly what he is all about.”
Fortunately for United and Louis van Gaal, their key performer will be well protected for the next fortnight after missing out on a call up to the Spain squad, but supporters will be crossing their fingers that the likes of Carrick, top scorer Wayne Rooney and returning Angel Di Maria return from international duty unscathed.