David Silva: Manchester United have not got the best out of Juan Mata

 

They have shared two cities, a club and a World Cup winners' medal but David Silva believes that Manchester United have failed to get the best from Juan Mata.

Silva and Mata left Valencia for England within a year of each other. One has won a League championship, the other has lifted the European Cup. Their friendship is solid and Silva had welcomed Mata's move to Old Trafford which was supposed to have re-energised a slow, toothless midfield.

Instead, he has been as unable to find a consistent role under David Moyes as he had under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. It may have been coincidence but Mata was missing from the only compelling United performance since his arrival – the 3-0 win over Olympiakos.

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"It is a difficult situation for him because the team is not playing that well," said Silva as he prepared to face Mata in Tuesday's Manchester derby. "They have not managed to bring out the best out in him but he is a very talented player and he will show it.

"He wasn't getting the minutes at Chelsea so it was a good move for him to go to United. I have been out to dinner with him and his family and we are friends. Anything he needs, he knows he can come to me for. Maybe after the game we can have a meal; it depends."

Whether Mata feels like entering a restaurant will depend on the result, and few in the red half of Manchester are optimistic. For years City carried out a guerilla war against Sir Alex Ferguson's great empire. They delighted in stories of how, after a 3-1 defeat at Maine Road, he threatened to let United's fans into the dressing room "so they can show you how they feel". They were rare triumphs and they had to be savoured. Now they will go to Old Trafford expecting to win.

Silva has become one of the club's leaders, though he does not look like one. He lacks the physical presence of a Patrick Vieira, or Roy Keane's wild stare. You cannot imagine him slamming his fist into a dressing-room door.

And yet last weekend the shy, wonderfully skilled boy from Gran Canaria drove his team over the line on a day when the Premier League title race changed complexion. Both City and Chelsea were away, both had a man sent off. Chelsea did not recover, but 10 minutes after the loss of Vincent Kompany at Hull, Silva unleashed a wonderful shot into the corner of Allan McGregor's net. Just before the end, he produced a balletic pass for Edin Dzeko to score the second.

"It was an extremely important win after an extremely difficult week [that had seen City eliminated from the FA Cup and the Champions' League]," said Silva. "If we had lost that one, we would probably have thrown away the Premier League."

Silva received a standing ovation in defeat at Barcelona, something a stadium very rarely grants an opponent in England. Vieira has compared him to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and it seems inevitable he will return to Spain.

"The standing ovations happened to me when we played Villarreal and Real Madrid," said Silva. "It is something that makes me very proud."

And he added: "I am flattered with the reports linking me to Barcelona, but it's just rumours. I am very used to rumours every summer." His ambition, he insisted, was simple: "To regain the Premier League and win the European Cup with City."

David Silva is an ambassador for Anfi Group, a luxury holiday company on the holiday island of Gran Canaria. For more information, visit: www.anfi.com

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