Liverpool: Juan Mata, it appears, has struggled to make a lasting impression on Louis van Gaal at Manchester United just as he failed to woo Jose Mourinho at his previous club Chelsea.
The Spanish playmaker`s two well-taken goals in a 2-1 Premier League victory at the home of arch rivals Liverpool on Sunday, however, again showcased his undoubted talent and may force Dutchman Van Gaal into a rethink.
Mata`s stop-start United career since his 37.1 million pounds ($61.22 million) move fom Chelsea 14 months ago has reflected his time at Stamford Bridge, where he was often overlooked by Mourinho despite being twice previously the club`s player of the season.
A move north was meant to revive Mata but, although he finished his first season in red strongly and began this campaign as first choice, the Spaniard appeared to have gone off his manager`s radar when it came to choosing his first eleven.
That was until last weekend when Mata made his first league start since Jan. 17 in place of the suspended Angel Di Maria against Tottenham.
An impressive display in a 3-0 victory was enough to retain his place at Anfield and Mata more than justified Van Gaal`s faith, opening the scoring with a low shot drilled across Simon Mignolet in the first half.
After the break, he then swivelled acrobatically to volley in substitute Di Maria`s chip.
"I think it`s my best game in a United shirt, yes. It`s a massive game, probably the biggest in English football, so to score two goals is great for me," Mata told Sky Sports.
"The second goal has to be up there with my best. After Steven Gerrard was sent off we needed a second goal because they pushed us to the end.
"It was important for me. The last few months I`ve not had the best moment. It is the manager who decides but I`m happy today."
Van Gaal was sufficiently impressed, but like Mourinho at Chelsea who preferred Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard in the three creative positions behind the lone striker, said Mata did not always fit into his formation.
"Now he is playing as a false right winger and the communication with (Ander) Herrera and (Antonio) Valencia gives him more opportunities," Van Gaal told reporters.
"I think he was one of my most consistent players. I am not amazed, but I am very happy for him."