Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria had ample cause to rue the red card he picked up against Arsenal in early March – it ruled him out of one of their best showings of 2014/15.
In his absence Juan Mata flourished in the midfield four right-side berth that the Argentine was occupying before his early bath against the Gunners.
Mata retained the place at Di Maria’s expense for the visit to Liverpool, scoring twice to secure a much-savoured victory.
There will doubtless be calls for the Spaniard’s match-winning contribution against at Anfield to be rewarded by an extended run in the first team at Di Maria’s expense.
However, an examination of the respective creators’ statistics suggest not just that Di Maria should be brought back in for Mata if necessary, but that he should be receiving a good deal more credit than he has been for his performances.
The man who did so much to bring Real Madrid ‘La Decima’ last season has assisted nine Premier League goals to Mata’s three this term despite playing less minutes.
He also averages the most key passes per game in the Reds’ squad with 2.2, equating to a mean of a whole goalscoring opportunity an outing more than the former Chelsea and Valencia maestro.
Above all of this as an admonishment to those who might suggest Di Maria is enduring an lukewarm first season in England is the fact that his nine assists leave him second only to Cesc Fabregas in the Premier League set-up standings.
Having been introduced from the bench it was his deft pass that found Mata for the decisive strike on Merseyside and even if he is introduced as a substitute against Aston Villa next up it would little surprise to see him add to his tally.
The man they know as ‘Noodle’ is a tasty looking 5/2 to assist a goal for a United colleague against Tim Sherwood’s men at Old Trafford on Saturday.
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