Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Man Utd v Chelsea: Are the Red Devils a better side with Juan Mata in their starting line-up?

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 24 Oct 2020


Juan Mata was voted Manchester United’s Player of the Month for September without kicking a ball in the Premier League.

On the back of his two goals and an assist in the EFL Cup wins over Luton Town and Brighton and Hove Albion, Mata was handed his first league start of 2020-21 last weekend.

The Spanish playmaker made his mark in the 4-1 win over Newcastle United by setting up Harry Maguire for the opener and Bruno Fernandes for a disallowed strike, and it was his fine pass to Marcus Rashford that was key to Fernandes making it 2-1 late on.

It is that partnership with Fernandes in particular that caught the eye and the 32-year-old may now be in contention to start against former club Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday, with Anthony Martial suspended, Jesse Lingard injured and doubts over the fitness of Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood.

But are United a better team with Mata in their line-up? With the use of Opta stats, we answer that question and look at the midfielder’s partnership with Fernandes in more detail.


Mata has started 18 Premier League games for United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has been left out of the side – either on the bench or in the stands – on 45 occasions.

The Red Devils have scored 28 goals with the ex-Spain international in the side, compared to 83 without – an average of 1.6 and 1.8 respectively.

United’s win percentage also drops slightly with Mata in the starting line-up, from 53.3 per cent without him in the XI to 44.4 per cent with him involved.

Delve deeper into the numbers, however, and Mata’s impact becomes clear.

United’s shots per match and Expected Goals (xG) figures are up slightly when he is among the starters. Average possession also increases from 55 to 58 per cent.

It’s their attacking approach where Mata’s impact is key, though. Their crosses per game and passes into the final third increase by three on average, with passing accuracy in the opposition half and final third also going up whenever Mata is in the starting line-up. The only thing that drops, albeit marginally, is big chances – 2.3 per game with him becomes 2.4 without.


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