Pitchside

How Moyes is misusing Mata, and why dropping RVP is the solution

Pitchside

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Squawka examine how David Moyes has been using Juan Mata in a role that is not suited to his personal strengths, and explain why dropping Robin van Persie could be the answer...

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Liverpool’s startlingly easy 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday unsurprisingly went down well with many neutrals.

Not only did it deal a veritable death-blow to the hosts’ dithering Champions League hopes, it also effectively confirmed Brendan Rodgers' men as firm contenders for the Premier League title.

While those not supporting United will have generally been left with a smile upon their faces at full-time, there was a feeling that the match could have been a much greater spectacle if the United stars had aligned in attack.

With Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and others having enjoyed a rampant afternoon, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and United were impotent. They created precious few clear-cut chances, despite boasting several well-regarded players in attack.

David Moyes is under an enormous amount of pressure and his apparent unwillingness to play Juan Mata in his favoured role is hardly improving the situation.

The simple story is that Moyes chucked about £37 million at Chelsea for an attacking midfielder he has bizarrely decided to play off of the flank. It is not working.

By no means did Mata have the nightmare that, say, Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic had, but he was exceptionally quiet. As has been the case in the majority of his United games since joining, he was shunted out to the right wing, roaming inside towards the equally-ineffectual Rooney.

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Of course, the central area is where he should be deployed, not as a winger who drifts into the middle. For starters, he and Rooney seemed to be getting in the way of each other against Liverpool, while Mata had no freedom to be the advanced playmaker.

Meanwhile, a glance at Mata’s pass map (below) for the match suggests a certain lack of dangerous passes in or around the Liverpool area from the Spaniard, further proof that he was essentially playing second fiddle to Rooney.

Moyes’ decision to field Mata from the right also yielded problems defensively. With no actual right-winger on the pitch for United, Rafael was forced to attack even more, thus exposing him at the back on more than one occasion.

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Van Persie’s undeniable slump in form could offer a potential solution for Moyes. Should he decide to drop the Dutch forward, Rooney could seamlessly move into his position, thus making room for Mata in the centre and a winger, such as the returning Nani, to fill in on the right.

Not only would that show Moyes is willing to rake the big and controversial decisions, it would give United more balance and Mata the opportunity to exploit his impressive 90% pass accuracy in a more threatening area.

Moyes’ usage of Mata is hardly his or United’s biggest problem, but the manager seems to be playing the Spaniard just for the sake of having him on the pitch. If you are going to spend a club-record fee on someone, surely you have to give them the opportunity to shine in their rightful and natural position?

Dropping Van Persie may be risky, but Moyes has done worse things than that this season.

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