Former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp has heaped praise on Juan Mata following Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Watford last weekend, insisting that the Spaniard’s footballing IQ is “off the scale.”
The 28-year-old delighted supporters with what was a sensational performance against Walter Mazzarri’s men, crowning a display blessed hallmarked by creativity with a well-taken opening goal after 32 minutes.
Mata, despite initial concerns surrounding his relationship with Mourinho, has morphed into an integral aspect of the Portuguese’s set-up, claiming nine goals so far this season.
And Redknapp, speaking after the game, was quick to hail the Spaniard’s footballing intelligence.
“Mourinho let Mata go at Chelsea but the manager has clearly recognised the Spaniard’s qualities.
“Mata’s footballing IQ is off the scale. He does not have the pace to burn past defenders like Anthony Martial so he plays on the right to allow him to find gaps in midfield, cut in on his left foot and shoot.
“I was not blessed with pace so I always liked to cut inside.
“Mata’s superb display against Watford underlined his value to United – though I’m not sure about his goal celebration on Saturday…”
One can only gain a relatively accurate sense of Mata’s brilliance by watching him all the time. Every action is so subtle, so well-planned and executed that he almost seems to enmesh himself in the general fabric of the game without you noticing.
He would have understood, early on, that the only way to exceed at this level would come through outsmarting the opponent. The Spaniard may be smaller, weaker and slower than most players on the pitch, but his sheer vision, positional intelligence and technical bravado provides the perfect platform from which he can subtly dismantle whatever stands in his way.