Manchester United vs Swansea: Juan Mata ready to star as No 10 - and confirms Van Gaal DID give Wayne Rooney penalty advice

Mata is likely to start behind a two-man strike force this season as Van Gaal looks tot he Spaniard to get United firing on all cylinders

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The Independent Football

Juan Mata is targeting a tilt at the Premier League title as a “new era” begins at Manchester United, with the attacking midfielder set to benefit the most from the appointment of Louis van Gaal as manager.

Mata was David Moyes’ marquee signing during his dismally short tenure at Old Trafford, landing the Spaniard for £37.1m from Premier League rivals Chelsea. With Van Gaal switching formations to accommodate his favoured 3-5-2 line-up, Mata looks set to flourish behind a double-strike force of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie – the former appointed captain earlier this week.

Mata also keeps an internet blog on his latest goings on, with his final post last season coming just two days before Moyes’ sacking. Titled – in Spanish – “Falling down is allowed. Getting back up is mandatory”, Mata believed it can be a mantra for United going into the new season, as he explained in an interview to the Daily Mail.

“Yes, I think it’s appropriate,” said Mata. “We are facing a new season with new goals. It’s a new era and we have a new manager and players. It’s a new chance to show that this club can fight for titles. So, yes, it’s time to get back up.”


Mata’s Chelsea career came to an end when the Spaniard failed to perform the same sparkling performances in a wider role than he had done centrally during the previous two seasons that saw him named the club’s play of the year. With Mata not featuring in Jose Mourinho’s plans, he was soon on his way to Old Trafford, but he has insisted that he is willing to play anywhere on the park, be it defensively of offensively – or in his favoured central role.

“I hope it will be (perfect) for me,” Mata said of playing in the No 10 role. “I feel comfortable in that position. I can play as a midfielder defensively or as a striker offensively if that’s what I have to do.

“But my mission is to assist and score. I can do that from this position and I hope I can have a great season. But more importantly it has to be a great season for the team. This system is difficult and it’s difficult to adapt. You have to be very fit, for example.

“You have to be focused but, if you manage to master it, you can put lots of pressure on the opponent and you can hurt them with the ball.

“I think everyone knows that Dutch football likes to play a good way, a way I like to play and watch. This manager wants passing and movement and triangles. It’s how I play my best.”

Mata also had words on Van Gaal’s decision to tell Rooney how to take a penalty during the club’s recent pre-season tour of the United States. The suggestion has been that Van Gaal’s ‘hands-on’ approach could eventually grind down the players should he constantly tell them how to play, but Mata believes that the Dutchman has taken a pragmatic approach to teaching the players how he wants them to play.

“Yeah, he told Wazza [Rooney] how to shoot, but it’s very good,” Mata explained. “He is a manager who feels every session. Not just a game but a training session. To him, it’s all important. He is very into it.

“Sometimes he sees a striker or midfielder not make the right pass, he stops the session and tells them. He loves to do that. He is very temperamental.

“I think the example with Wazza, he was right. If you face the goalkeeper you have to wait for him to go and then put the ball in the other side.

“It’s easy to say it but not so easy to do it when you are in the 88th minute of a game. So you must practise. Everything he says is meant to help.

“You must have an open mind. If you are a professional player, that’s basic. I have had many managers during the past years and I can learn from all of them. Now with Louis van Gaal we have a new way of working and we are all trying to adapt. Even the goalkeeper has an important role in the game-play.”

Van Gaal will face his first major test when United get the Premier League season underway on Saturday afternoon as they take on Swansea City at Old Trafford in a repeat of David Moyes’ first league game in charge – albeit at the Theatre of Dreams rather than a trip to south Wales. Moyes’ side won that game in impressive fashion with a 4-1 victory, but it goes to show that Van Gaal faces an uphill task if United are return to the top of the English game.