By North-west correspondent Tony Hughes
Juan Mata has been warned by Louis van Gaal he must keep his performances up if he is to avoid being usurped at Manchester United by youngster Andrea Pereira.
Mata was demoted to the bench for three Premier League matches in January as Van Gaal preferred Ander Herrera to his fellow Spaniard.
But the former Chelsea playmaker has been impressive since returning to the team in United’s last two fixtures, the wins over Derby in the FA Cup and Stoke in the league.
Mata has been used almost exclusively on the right wing this season but was handed his favourite No10 role in midweek, with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard starting on the flanks.
Pereira has made just four substitute appearances in the Premier League this season and has started only two United matches, both in the League Cup.
Speaking at his media briefing on Friday, Van Gaal revealed he is open to using Mata in the No10 role but it is up to the player to force his hand.
“I have already played Mata in the same role. Maybe you remember that,” the Dutchman said. “I’m not changing him from that role, he has changed himself because previously he wasn’t good enough there. That is the reason.
“It is not the coach or the manager, but when he is playing like he has been playing now, he shall play at No.10.”
United are fifth in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea.
Van Gaal: “We will have to see if he plays there on Sunday against Chelsea. Maybe I have another No.10 who is better than Mata – maybe Andreas Pereira is better.
“I don’t discuss that with you, I’ll discuss it with Juan Mata. Juan Mata knows, and maybe he is doing better now.”