Mata to emulate Lampard and Gerrard as goal-scoring number 8

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Manchester United’s shiny new number eight Juan Mata marked his debut with a hand in both goals against Cardiff to help lift the gloom at Old Trafford in a 2-0 victory.

As well as Mata’s debut helping to disperse the clouds that had been hanging over the champions, the United faithful were treated to Robin van Persie marking his return to fitness with the opening goal of the match.

The offshoot of that much-needed home victory is that David Moyes’ side have now shortened to 11/5 to supersede fierce rivals Liverpool, and make the coveted Champions League spots.

And although the silky Spaniard didn’t ripple the net himself, he’s in the right place to emulate some of the Premier League’s great goal-scoring midfielders who wear the same shirt number, such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

There is more than enough pressure attached to becoming a club like United’s record ever signing and it seems Mata clearly felt adding to that considerable strain by taking the famous number seven shirt was a tad unnecessary.

Still, although the midfield maestro won’t be sporting the iconic number donned by George Best and taken on by the likes of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo, he still has the chance to join a select few of Premier League midfield icons.

You have to feel for Mata, who had already gone some way to etching his name into a list of famous top-flight number 10s when at Chelsea, though that chapter was brought to an abrupt end by the arrival of Jose Mourinho.

But with a bit of careful watering at United – where he looks set to play in his favoured role off the main striker – the 20 goals he scored in all comps for Chelsea last season suggests he’s ready to create a fresh legacy, this time in red.

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

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