Mata was superb for Manchester United in the 3-0 win over Stoke City and laid on the passes for all three of the passes which created Man United’s goals.
In a system with more freedom Mata is excelling and van Gaal is clearly pleased with how the Spaniard is getting on.
When he is playing like he plays now, he shall play at the number ten position,” van Gaal said on Friday.
Van Gaal, as he always does, stopped short of saying he was certain to start. He added: “We have to see, because maybe I have another number ten who is better than Juan Mata, it is possible. Maybe Andreas Pereira is better.”
Interestingly, van Gaal added that the decision to not play Mata in the No.10 role all season was just as much Juan’s decision as it was his.
“I did not change him from that role,” he said.
“He changed himself because at that time he was not good enough. I won’t discuss that with you [the reason why he was not good enough]. I discuss that with Juan Mata only. He knows why and he is better now.”
A free flowing Mata is one of the best players in the Premier League and we’ve seen that in his last performance against Stoke but the real test comes on Sunday away to Chelsea.
Van Gaal always starts former players against their ex-clubs so I fully expect to see Mata in the starting XI at Stamford Bridge and we’re all hoping he can replicate the sort of performance which has earned him such praise from United’s boss.