Wednesday 26 August 2015

Mata's misuse is the key reason for Rooney goalscoring drought

Boxing Day 2014: nine minutes before half-time during United's victory over Newcastle at Old Trafford, and Wayne Rooney latches on to Juan Mata's pass to LVG's side 2-0 up. 

A seemingly unremarkable goal in a relatively comfortable victory: yet it remains the only goal that Mata has created for Rooney in the league after 18 months of playing together.

Rooney's current goal drought now stands at 858 minutes: he has not scored for United since his strike against Villa on April 4 at OT and his contribution this season, or, more to the point- lack thereof- has amplified calls from United supporters to Van Gaal to recruit a proven goalscorer during the final week of the transfer window.

The Dutchman insists that he retains faith in Rooney to score at least 20 goals this season- which would make him United's all time record goalscorer- and that his team's dominance will be rewarded with the goals to reflect their share of possession.

LVG believes that the goalscoring problems afflicting United can be resolved with the current personnel, but the role of Mata is likely to come under increasing scrutiny owing to his inability to provide for Rooney.

Since arriving in the Premier League, Mata has created combined 36 league goals for both Chelsea and United.
At Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard was crowned Chelsea's Player of the Year twice in succession as the team's creative force, with 27 league assists in 2 1/2 seasons at the club.

Largely deployed in a central role behind the centre-forward, Mata was able to pick holes in opponents defences for team-mates to exploit.
At United, David Moyes and then Van Gaal have largely denied Mata that 'No.10' position, and as a result, his assists have dropped to only  nine in 18 months.

While the 27-year-old has maintained his threat as a goalscorer (netting 18 for United compared to 15 for Chelsea), his creative influence has declined.
Rooney- it would appear- has become a victim of Mata's reduced output.
The pair also suffer from a shared desire to drift towards the 'No.10' position that neither is being asked to play.
The United boss wants Rooney to play as the focal point with Mata cutting in from wide, but they are struggling to make the formula work.

What is clear is that Rooney requires better service- he needs both Memphis Depay and Mata to find their team-mates with early passes- but the England captain must also be disciplined enough to avoid dropping deep in search of the ball.

However, if Van Gaal can find a way to Mata inside, the slump in form that is currently dragging Rooney down could be solved. 

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