Juan Mata receives praise from an improbable source
Jamie Carragher has hailed Manchester United No.10 Juan Mata as one of the most underrated players in the Premier League and suggested the Spaniard does not get the credit he deserves.
Mata scored a fine goal for United in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Saturday, as he produced the good once again on a day when his team were struggling to find a cutting edge.
Now Liverpool legend Carragher has saluted Mata as one of the best in the performers in the Premier League, and he has statistics to back up his argument.
“I think we’re looking at one of the most underrated players in the Premier League,” the Sky Sports pundit said on Monday Night Football.
“I think the reason he doesn’t get that credit the others get is that he played his first two years here with Chelsea, then [Jose] Mourinho comes in - the ‘best manager in the world’ - and gets rid of him so everyone thinks ‘Mourinho can’t be wrong, so there must be something wrong with Mata’.
“He goes to Manchester United, but he’s not a Manchester United player, he hasn’t got any pace and the fee is well over the odds for him. But what No 10 has got pace?
“I think it’s about time now that we start looking at Mata in these group of players - Kevin De Bruyne, Philippe Coutinho, David Silva, Eden Hazard - as one of the top players in the Premier League, which he is and has been.
“It’s not a flash in the pan. He’s been here five or six years, and he should start getting a lot more credit.”
Mata has not always been picked by his manager Jose Mourinho to play in high profile games against United’s top six rivals this season, but Carragher suggested that might change after his man of the match display against Arsenal.
“He’s played almost as much as anyone against ‘big six’ opposition, only bettered by Silva, so we’re not talking about a run of seven or eight games when he’s had a bit of luck and got a few goals,” he added.
“People always talk about assists with No 10’s and I don’t care what position you play in, a goal is more important than an assist for me.
"The minutes for goals and assists is also a massive difference between the others, almost by 15 minutes.
“So he’s getting more goals than those players in those positions. Silva only has more assists and we talk about those players and the influence that they have, but this is where it is important, in those big games.”