Manchester United's Juan Mata was rested from the team that drew with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, manager Louis van Gaal has confirmed, after the Spaniard was an unused substitute in the Russian capital. Mata had started all of the club's games this season before being left on the bench for the 1-1 stalemate.
The absence of Mata, who has scored four goals and made five assists in all competitions this term, was immediately felt by Van Gaal's side as they lacked impetus and direction during the tie in Moscow. After Seydou Doumbia's opener, Anthony Martial's equaliser helped grab a much-needed point following an uncertain performance.
Despite United chasing a late winner, Van Gaal refrained from introducing Mata, instead choosing to bring on Daley Blind and Memphis Depay in the second half, having already replaced Bastian Schweinsteiger with Marouane Fellaini at half time. The Dutch coach has since indicated that he had no intention of using Mata during the 90 minutes, in an effort to ease his workload.
"I have to rotate. Mata has played almost every game," the United boss said according to The Mirror. "He needs a bit of a rest." The 27-year-old is expected to start the derby against Manchester City on Sunday 25 October, with Van Gaal not suggesting he is suffering from an injury.
Though United struggled for long periods in Moscow, their second-half fightback enhances their bid to qualify for the knock-out phase. And ahead of resuming their Premier League campaign against leaders City, Van Gaal believes his side take good momentum into the fixture.
"Yes I think that," he said, according to the official United website. "I can't complain about the spirit of my team. I am very proud of my players that I can always say that, because last year I said once that it was not good, once. I am always honest, and I say that always to my players in the dressing room. And I can say that to you now because I am honest to you too."
"I have said already yesterday that I would be happy with a draw," he added. "That is because I know we have two home matches, and we are very strong at home. So I hope that we can win these games, and then we are nearly qualified or we are already qualified depending on other results. I think we are on schedule, despite the defeat against PSV, which I still think was a little strange. I don't have to describe that defeat."