Manchester United’s decision to barely use Juan Mata in the Premier League since lockdown felt ominous for his future.
He did not start a single game and played only twice as a substitute. It led to reports in Turkey suggesting Fenerbahce were hoping to sign the playmaker.
Yet talk of Mata leaving the club now looks very unlikely after his triumphant return to the team in the Europa League.
Mata provided two assists in the win over LASK, creating four chances, and came off the bench against FC Copenhagen to turn the match.
He started the attack which led to United winning the decisive penalty, with his guile and assurance in possession helping to finally break the Danes down.
If there were doubts over his future at Old Trafford for next season, they have surely been answered now.
Outstanding in Europe
Mata has been one of United’s star players across the Europa League campaign.
He has also played valuable roles in domestic cup competitions, including scoring the winner over Wolves.
Mata may be 32, but he still has magic in his boots. As a bit-part player, he has given United what we have asked of him this season.
This season he has scored three goals and provided seven assists in total, and it is possible he is not quite done yet.
United have a young team and his experience is vital. At a moment when the team was banging against a brick wall, Mata’s experience and calmness was vital in extra-time.
These are qualities which can benefit United in the Champions League next season.
His performances over the past two games have been enough to secure his spot in United’s squad next season. He is happy with his role as a squad player, and there is no downside to keeping him.