Manchester United need to consider bringing Juan Mata back into their starting XI, says Gary Neville, with the World Cup winner possessing the creative qualities to solve an ongoing “problem”.
The Red Devils have continued to fare admirably in heavyweight contests this season, taking points off the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Tottenham.
Outings against so-called lesser teams remain something of an issue, with a 2-0 defeat to rock-bottom Watford on Sunday highlighting as much.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has vowed to find a solution, but he faces plenty of questions at present as United seek to rediscover the consistency which will allow them to challenge for a top-four finish.
Club legend Neville believes Spanish schemer Mata may be worth a look, with the 31-year-old having been handed just five Premier League starts in the current campaign.
“They’ve had problems against teams who essentially defend deep, who are compact,” Neville told Sky Sports of the Red Devils.
“Even last week against Everton when Everton got into their shape.
“So the games that have been causing United problems have been this type of game.
“But if United are going to try and get into the positions where Tottenham and Chelsea are looking to get to, they have to start winning these games.
“The players have got a real problem, they haven’t got enough creativity in the final third when they play against a deep defence, it’s as simple as that.
“They prefer counterattacking, so that’s the issue. It’s a problem for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got to try and get around it.
“He’s not used Juan Mata that much but he is the one who potentially could find passes in tight spaces, so whether he could be introduced.
“Something like that might change it in these types of games.”
Mata saw 18 minutes off the bench at Vicarage Road and Solskjaer has said that he will look to rotate his squad over the coming weeks as the games come thick and fast across multiple competitions.
The United boss told the club’s official website: “Yes [I’ve got a big squad] and that’s important. That’s why we’ve been rotating early on and giving players minutes.
“When you have two games on Boxing Day and two days later you can make changes.”
The Red Devils will play host to Newcastle on Thursday before bringing the curtain down on 2019 with a trip to Burnley.
New Year’s Day will see them head to Arsenal, before attention switches to knockout matters and FA Cup and Carabao Cup clashes with Wolves and Manchester City respectively.