(Reuters) - Manchester United’s Juan Mata prefers to play as an attacking midfielder but the Spaniard has praised his team mates for helping him to flourish on the right wing, the 29-year-old said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with rivals Liverpool.
In more than 150 appearances for United, Mata has been deployed either as an attacking midfielder or on the right wing, with all seven of his league appearances this season being made in wide areas.
Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan has thrived in the central role during this campaign, scoring once and providing five assists in seven league games, but Mata is relishing his role out wide as it gives him freedom to cut inside and create chances.
“Let’s say offensive midfielder,” Mata told United’s website when asked about his preferred role. (www.manutd.com) “But, obviously, I am playing more now on the right wing, when I try to come inside and create space for my team mates...
“It’s this kind of freedom that allows me to be in touch with the ball, that’s where I feel comfortable...
“I consider myself as this kind of attacking midfielder, trying to find the gaps between the opposition midfielders and defenders and produce what the team needs between the lines.”
Mata, who scored a memorable brace at Anfield in 2015, also said that netting a goal was far more rewarding than providing an assist.
“The most important and the better feeling in football, for me, is scoring a goal,” Mata added.
“Obviously, when you’ve made a great assist... is a great feeling, but obviously the best feeling is to score yourself.”
United, who are second in the league after winning six of their opening seven fixtures, drew both games against Liverpool last season.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru