Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes were tasked with sharing the playmaking responsibilities by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Manchester United’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle.
Mata was widely expected to come into the United side at the expense of the suspended Anthony Martial and initially lined up on the right of the front three, with Daniel James on the left and Marcus Rashford through the middle.
Fernandes occupied the No.10 role behind Rashford and had a goal disallowed and a second-half penalty saved before he struck the 86th minute winner.
Mata drifted infield regularly throughout United’s win and crossed for Harry Maguire’s equaliser before playing a key role in Fernandes’s winner. The 32-year-old Spaniard was voted the United player of the month for September by supporters and Solskjaer lauded Mata’s mentality.
“He’s played fantastic, Juan,” Solskjaer said. “He’s such a professional and everyone in the team knows his qualities. He’s been so patient waiting for his chance.
“Of course, I get questions about our players – why doesn’t he play? Why doesn’t he play? It’s because we’ve got many good players and it’s about taking your chances when you do. Juan has definitely done so.
“We wanted Bruno and Juan in the pockets, to get in there and get on the ball. We wanted Dan and Marcus to work really hard, to run in behind and everybody to be positive. I thought all four of them did the job and I’m very pleased with Dan.”
Maguire recovered from chastening performances for club and country with a commendable performance and his goal sparked United’s comeback.
“It’s the way to respond,” Solskjaer added. “A couple of disappointing performances – it’s up and down. Lost 6-1, then he was part of the team that beat the world number one ranked Belgium and then he got sent off, now he’s up again.
“A very good performance, he could’ve had one or two. He led the team by example, he was inspirational as well in the build-up to the game. I’m very pleased for him.”