Jamie Carragher believes Juan Mata is “underrated” and on par with the best No 10s in the Premier League.
Mata scored his third goal of the season on his eighth start on Saturday, helping Manchester United to a 1-1 draw against Arsenal.
Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (six) has more league goals for Jose Mourinho’s side this season, while the Spaniard has also contributed one assist.
The 28-year-old has emerged as one of the club’s most integral players, and Carragher believes he deserves far more credit.
“I think we’re looking at one of the most underrated players in the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“I think the reason he doesn’t get that credit the others get is that he played his first two years here with Chelsea, then [Jose] Mourinho comes in – the ‘best manager in the world’ – and gets rid of him so everyone thinks ‘Mourinho can’t be wrong, so there must be something wrong with Mata’.
“He goes to Manchester United, but he’s not a Manchester United player, he hasn’t got any pace and the fee is well over the odds for him. But what No 10 has got pace?
“I think it’s about time now that we start looking at Mata in these group of players – Kevin De Bruyne, Philippe Coutinho, David Silva, Eden Hazard – as one of the top players in the Premier League, which he is and has been.
“It’s not a flash in the pan. He’s been here five or six years, and he should start getting a lot more credit.”
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Carragher then compared Mata’s stats against ‘big six’ opposition – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – with the midfielder faring better than his competitors.
“He’s played almost as much as anyone against ‘big six’ opposition, only bettered by Silva, so we’re not talking about a run of seven or eight games when he’s had a bit of luck and got a few goals,” Carragher added.
“People always talk about assists with No 10’s and I don’t care what position you play in, a goal is more important than an assist for me. The minutes for goals and assists is also a massive difference between the others, almost by 15 minutes.
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