Manchester derby the perfect stage for United star to prove worth

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After Marouane Fellaini was quickly ridiculed as a costly flop at Manchester United, hopes were high that Juan Mata would be a far more promising addition when he joined from Chelsea in January.

But ahead of the Manchester derby, which United are 12/5 to win, Manchester City’s David Silva has moved to criticise the Red Devils use of his former Valencia teammate, claiming they are yet to get the best out of him.

According to WhoScored.com the Citizens’ diminutive playmaker has a point, with United’s own tiny creator yet to score for his new club and on a five-game streak without an assist.

When the Mata deal was being made, many pondered that the 25-year-old would struggle to fit into the United side with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie knocking around.

That’s certainly been the case, with Mata starting in behind the striker on just two occasions since his £37m arrival, starting all of the rest out wide and proving the theory that the one-paced Spaniard was a misfit on the wings.

However, the injury Van Persie suffered in the triumphant overcoming of Olympiacos in the Champions League has given the former Chelsea Player of the Year the chance to shine in his favoured position.

Mata returned to the number 10 role for United’s last match against West Ham, registering his first WhoScored.com rating over 7.5 for five games.

David Moyes’ side claimed a 2-0 win at Upton Park, to go with the victory they picked up by the same scoreline in Mata’s bow against Cardiff  – incidentally the last time he was used “correctly”.

With the stats shining a favourable light on playing Mata behind the front man, Van Persie’s six-week layoff could be the golden opportunity Mata needed to start repaying some of the faith Moyes had in bringing him to Old Trafford. And there wouldn’t be a better time to start than against the old enemy.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.