Last season brought little in the shape of satisfaction for Juan Mata, but life under Louis van Gaal promises a change of fortunes for the diminutive Spaniard.
Playing in his natural position behind the two strikers in the Dutchman’s 3-5-2 system, Manchester United fans are sure to see the former Chelsea man produce the elegant, refined, quality-oozing performances that saw him pocket two successive player of the year awards in his short tenure at Stamford Bridge.
Following his £37m move from west London, David Moyes tended to deploy the 26-year-old on the flanks, in a rigid system in which he struggled to prosper.
Mata has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of the coming season, promising to score more goals, amongst other things for his new boss.
The odds moguls over at bwin HQ have gone 17/20 about the boy from Burgos netting over 9.5 goals in his first full term with the 13-time Premier League champions, who, incidentally, can be backed at 9/2 to make it 14 this year.
This rates as an excellent punt given that, despite struggling to showcase his glittering best in his fledgling United career, Mata still scored six goals in 14 starts last time around.
It’s fair to say that the number of team sheets he makes will increase once the music restarts so, assuming he replicates this goal-getting standard – although that it stands to reason that he will, in fact, supersede it in this new-fangled formation – he’ll notch at least 12 times.
In 2012/13, when deployed in a similar role by Rafa Benitez at Chelsea, Mata yielded the same amount of strikes as the total forecast above, assisting a further 12 in the process.
It’s the only league tally that would’ve sufficed the criteria for payout regarding the wager in question, but his six-strike half-season haul last time suggests he’s on for a bigger campaign on the goal front.
He hit six in his first season with the Blues before recording his personal best in the year that followed and, having notched a half dozen with Man Utd to conclude the previous instalment, Mata could be poised to pocket a bagful – get on the overs.