Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has praised Anthony Martial and Juan Mata for their performances during the Red Devils' convincing 3-0 win over Stoke City on Tuesday (2 February). Martial put in yet another man of the match performance, to follow up his show against Derby County in the FA Cup on Saturday (30 January), while Mata had a hand in all three goals during the game.
Jesse Lingard opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a stooping header following a great cross from young full back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The lead was doubled five minutes later by Martial, who curled the ball into the top right corner following a quick break. The Frenchman then turned provider in the second-half when Wayne Rooney wrapped up the win in the 53rd minute with a close range strike.
The Red Devils seem to have hit their stride in recent weeks following a dip in form that saw them struggle to score goals and close out matches. Van Gaal was delighted with his team's performance, especially with the buildup play, which saw them start moves from the back before finishing off at the other end.
The Dutch manager also reserved high praise for Mata, who excelled after being deployed in his preferred No 10 role, but has warned the Spaniard that a regular place can be ensured only with consistent performances. Van Gaal, however, has predicted a bright future for the former AS Monaco forward, and believes there is much more to come from the talented 20-year-old, who has begun to regain his early season form, which saw him score three goals in his first two games for the Old Trafford club.
"It is very much surprising when you are 19, now he is 20, and you come from the French league to the Premier League and you can do this when you are 19 years or 20 years old. You have a lot of potential to give then still," Van Gaal said, as quoted by United's official site.
"He [Mata] participated in all three goals, that's also what I like to see. When he's playing how he is playing now, then the chance is big [for him to feature centrally more often]."
"Every player has to do it every week, even my captain has to do that because everyone has forgotten that he was a substitute against Stoke away. It's always the same with me, you have to prove it in every game and training session, and then you play. But when Mata plays like this, I cannot say to him 'go to the bench," the former Bayern Munich manager explained.