Manchester United decided last week to extend Juan Mata’s contract for another 12 months.

Those are divided, with some believing Mata fully deserves an extension and others believing it was time to move on and he will block the development of younger players.

Well, now United has made the decision, the coaching staff must decide how to make the most of it.

(Photo by Aleksandra Szmigiel – Pool / Getty Images)

Mata needs a real role

Mata only started six Premier League games last season and only played three times as a substitute. While he missed quite a bit due to a return to Spain because of the sad death of his mother, there was plenty of time for which he was simply overlooked.

Both Mata and teammate Donny van de Beek were used too seldom, Bruno Fernandes was used too often.

Not only did Fernandes play too much to his own detriment, coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also seemed too reluctant or scared to drop him off. That has to change next season to the advantage of United at Bruno.

In the past season, Mata was unused 25 times in all competitions. Below is a list of some of the games he was ignored in.

  • 3-2 defeat against RB Leipzig
  • 0-1 defeat by Arsenal
  • 0-0 draw against Manchester City
  • 0-0 draw against Liverpool
  • 2-1 loss to Sheffield United
  • 0-0 draw against Leeds
  • 1-1 draw with Fulham

In retrospect, of course, all games where United could have dealt with Mata’s creativity.

The Spaniard still has an eye for the pass and has eight chances in nine league games he has played. The more football he plays, the sharper he’ll be.

While United have a big squad and plenty of options outside of the bench, Solskjaer didn’t seem to strike the right balance last year.

If Solskjaer doesn’t believe Mata will be able to influence games from the bench, then there was no point in extending his contract.

United committed to Mata this summer. Now that he’s here, Solskjaer needs to change his approach and use the Spaniard more regularly and give him the chance to be the influential player he is still capable of.

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