Manchester United legend Paul Parker has heralded the contribution made by Juan Mata at the weekend – saying the Spaniard’s performance at Newcastle was enough to push him into the consideration for a starting place in the big games.
Mata, a veteran, has been used increasingly sparingly over the last few years but has started this season in fine form. Against Newcastle, his link-up play with Bruno Fernandes was exceptional and a key factor in United’s victory. And Parker believes that United’s general lack of players with that intelligence means Mata has pushed himself into contention.
“People keep saying he’s too slow,” Parker said, exclusively on this week’s Talking Devils podcast. “But he’s got a brain quicker than anybody else’s feet. How fast was Teddy Sheringham when United signed him? People are signed for certain qualities. If every player was just quick you wouldn’t have the league you have.”
Parker says that in the past, the League Cup games Mata has played in when the squad has been rotated have not always been the best showcase for a player of his talent.
“He’s almost too intelligent for some players,” says Parker. “Put him in a League Cup game where there are players who are not quite the same standard or who haven’t played for a while and you’ll probably hear the complaint that he is too slow or that he can’t do certain things. It’s difficult for players in those games. He’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, but you get better performances the more he plays. Put him in a team which is flowing well and he’ll make a difference. He can’t go week in week out anymore but certainly when he’s a player that when you’re picking a team for the big games you’re going to have to think about. Especially when you’re in front and you want a player to keep the ball, or to make a goal out of nothing.”
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