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Manchester United 2016-17 Player Report Cards: Juan Mata

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Usually good, occasionally brilliant footballer. Adorable human being.

Ajax v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Juan Mata's has a better season than tBB expected, because tBB expected him to be flogged off to the highest bidder the moment José Mourinho swaggered into town. That didn't happen; United's is not a squad that can afford to be shedding its better players.

Instead, he's played fairly regularly, and sits third -- at the time of writing -- in United's goalscoring charts, level with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and one behind Marcus Rashford. Some of those goals have been important, too: winners against City in the League Cup and Rostov in the Europa League, and opening goals against Arsenal, Hull, West Ham, and Watford. In a team as goal-shy as United, scoring the opening goal is a happy knack to have, and it's possibly not a coincidence that United's late season stretch of dullness has come at much the same time as Mata's been injured.

Manchester United v FK Rostov - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: Second Leg
Imagine not loving Juan Mata.
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

All that said, it's hard to see where Mata figures in United's first team. This is mostly because nobody really has any idea what United's first team looks like or how it's supposed to play, but also because there are alternatives in every position, most of which feel much more Mourinho-like than cuddly Juan. If it takes a special kind of monster to prefer, say, Jesse Lingard to Mata, then Mourinho, for better and worse, is precisely that kind of monster.

Ultimately, we still don't feel that optimistic about Mata's future at Old Trafford. As well as being a usually good, occasionally brilliant footballer, he's an adorable human being who looks as though he commutes to work in a boat made from an acorn cup. This is not an aesthetic for which we can imagine Mourinho having much time. But we hope we're wrong.

José Mourinho approval rating: Awkwardly personal jokes made at an inappropriate volume, accompanied by a slightly-too-firm backslap.