Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal insists he has seen Juan Mata play better, despite the midfielder scoring a goal and setting up another against Wolfsburg on Wednesday.
United kick-started their Champions League Group B campaign with a 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Mata and Chris Smalling at Old Trafford.
Mata dazzled in Manchester, with his 34th-minute penalty cancelling out Daniel Caligiuri’s opener, before the Spain international executed a sublime back-heel flick to tee up Smalling eight minutes into the second half.
Van Gaal, though, was reluctant to join in the praise for Mata post-match.
“I don’t speak about individual performances, but I have seen Mata playing better than today,” said the Dutchman.
“I can say as a manager that he played very well and agree with you, but I don’t agree with you.”
While Van Gaal played down Mata’s performance, the 64-year-old talked up goalscoring centre-back Smallimg.
“He played a very good match, especially defensive,” Van Gaal continued. “And the way he scored a goal was outstanding, especially for a defender, and especially for him because he is not doing that so much. Against PSV [a 2-1 defeat on matchday one] also he had a chance.”
Van Gaal also confirmed Mata is United’s new designated penalty taker following his successful spot-kick on Wednesday.
Mata coolly converted from the spot 11 minutes before half-time following a handball inside the area.
United captain Rooney had been first choice but the out-of-form striker is now last in the pecking order.
“I take all the decisions, believe me. I am responsible. Of course, I communicate always with my players, but I make the decisions and everybody knows that except you,” Van Gaal added.
“Wayne Rooney has missed a penalty. Then we have also another sequence so it is a rule in our way of taking penalties. When you miss you are last then the other player has the chance to take the penalty.”
United, PSV, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg are all level on three points after two matchdays.