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Mata to emulate Lampard and Gerrard as goal-scoring number 8

| 29.01.2014

Manchester United’s shiny new number eight Juan Mata marked his debut with a hand in both goals against Cardiff to help lift the gloom at Old Trafford in a 2-0 victory.

As well as Mata’s debut helping to disperse the clouds that had been hanging over the champions, the United faithful were treated to Robin van Persie marking his return to fitness with the opening goal of the match.

The offshoot of that much-needed home victory is that David Moyes’ side have now shortened to 11/5 to supersede fierce rivals Liverpool, and make the coveted Champions League spots.

And although the silky Spaniard didn’t ripple the net himself, he’s in the right place to emulate some of the Premier League’s great goal-scoring midfielders who wear the same shirt number, such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

There is more than enough pressure attached to becoming a club like United’s record ever signing and it seems Mata clearly felt adding to that considerable strain by taking the famous number seven shirt was a tad unnecessary.

Still, although the midfield maestro won’t be sporting the iconic number donned by George Best and taken on by the likes of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo, he still has the chance to join a select few of Premier League midfield icons.

You have to feel for Mata, who had already gone some way to etching his name into a list of famous top-flight number 10s when at Chelsea, though that chapter was brought to an abrupt end by the arrival of Jose Mourinho.

But with a bit of careful watering at United – where he looks set to play in his favoured role off the main striker – the 20 goals he scored in all comps for Chelsea last season suggests he’s ready to create a fresh legacy, this time in red.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.