Manchester United got the better of Premier League leaders Chelsea 2-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday to keep their top four hopes alive.
Jose Mourinho’s men saw both Liverpool and Manchester City pick up vital victories earlier in the weekend, and goals from Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera capped off an excellent performance from the Red Devils to secure a much-needed and well-earned three points.
It means that United are just four points behind neighbours City in fourth, and with the Manchester derby coming up a week on Thursday, things could certainly change in the race for Champions League football next season.
However, Mourinho’s men have the small matter of a Europa League quarter-final to contend with before then when they host Anderlecht on Thursday, which is another competition in which the Red Devils could secure Champions League football, but only if they win the tournament.
Clearly, there is much to play for between now and May for United, but that hasn’t stopped speculation building about potential incomings and outgoings at Old Trafford this summer, and one man linked with a move away in recent days is playmaker Juan Mata.
The Spaniard has been linked with a move to Besiktas, what with United themselves interested in Anderson Talisca, who is currently on loan at the Turkish giants from Benfica.
However, as much as Talisca is clearly a hugely talented player with much to offer, Mata has underlined his importance to United this term, and as a result it is crucial that he stays at Old Trafford this summer.
The 28-year-old has scored ten goals and laid on four assists in 37 appearances in all competitions this term for the Red Devils, which means that star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only man to have netted more than him (28 goals in 44 games).
And when you consider that Ibrahimovic is 35 and may not sign a new deal this summer, and that the likes of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba haven’t set the world alight this term, Mata is absolutely vital to this United side.
Many expected him to be one of the first out of the door when Mourinho took over last summer, such was that the Portuguese sold him at Chelsea, but he has become an integral part of what the former Blues boss is trying to build at Old Trafford.
And at 28, Mata is in his peak years as a footballer, and given what he has already done in England with both Chelsea and United, netting 44 goals in 190 Premier League appearances, the Red Devils faithful can expect much more over the coming years.
It’s also hugely important that United keep Mata because, when you look at the side, there is much inexperience in the eleven, with Rashford only 19 and having played just 61 times for the club, while the likes of Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan haven’t got much Premier League experience under their belts.
And when you look at the sort of goals Mata has scored, most notably which sides he scores them against, he is a big game player who often produces his best in the games that matter.
This term, for instance, the 28-year-old has scored twice against Premier League champions Leicester, netted the winner in their League Cup victory over Manchester City back in September (a competition they went on to win), scored in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal, and got the crucial winner in their 2-1 aggregate win over FC Rostov in the Europa League (a competition they may go on to win).
The midfielder clearly knows what it takes to perform when his team need it most, and get the goals and assists in the big games – that’s an invaluable trait and asset to any side, and one United cannot afford to let go as Mourinho looks to build something at Old Trafford.
Mata has been a key cog in United’s resurgence as the season has progressed, and would surely be a big part of what’s to come over the next few years.
They simply cannot afford to sell him.