Manchester United news: Gary Neville admits Juan Mata has proved him wrong this season

Neville questioned whether he would fit United's philosophy

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The Independent Football

Gary Neville has admitted Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has proved him wrong with how he has played since Jose Mourinho has become manager.

Mata slotted his fourth goal of the season for the Red Devils during the 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Old Trafford and against re-emphasised his importance to the side.

Upon the announcement of Mourinho’s appointment as United boss, Mata was the first name to be linked with a move away from the club after the Portuguese allowed him to leave Chelsea when the pair were at Stamford Bridge together in 2014.

The Spaniard has often been overlooked for his favoured No 10 role behind the striker and instead been placed on the wing to cut inside, despite his lack of pace.

Neville was unflattering about Mata ahead of his £37.5m move from Chelsea to United, unsure whether he would fit the “typical philosophy of Manchester United”, but admitted his mistake and instead praised the 28-year-old.

"I myself questioned whether he fits the profile of a Manchester United wide player, because that’s where he is playing, even if I know he ends up drifting in," Neville told Sky Sports.

"The ability to counter-attack and have wing play has always been Manchester United’s way, so you wondered where he would fit in. I have to say that’s been one of the surprises out of the first few months in Jose Mourinho’s reign.

"When Mata came off [against Arsenal] there was a little hug with Mourinho," Neville added. "There seemed to be a level of respect that was not always there when he was at Chelsea, when Mata was ultimately sold.

"He’s adapted well, he’s played well, and he’s always had a good attitude. He’s a top player. At the moment, he’s doing very well. He was the better of the front three on Saturday."