Manchester United v Sunderland

Juan Mata would be forgiven for thinking he is the unluckiest man in football.

A year ago, the Spanish maestro had just been named Chelsea's player of the season for the second season in a row and was about to travel to Brazil with Spain for the Confederations Cup. It seemed a World Cup place was secure, and he was set to become on the most influential and respected footballers in the game.

But then his dream was cruelly and abruptly shattered. First, Mata failed to beat Brazil in the Confederations Cup final. Then, a much bigger blow: Jose Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager.

Even though Mata had been crucial to Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez, the Portuguese showed from the very beginning that the Spaniard had no place in his plans. It seemed impossible that a Chelsea hero could be relegated to the bench so unceremoniously, but Mata was.

In desperation, the little playmaker was forced to move to struggling Manchester United, renouncing any chance of winning titles in order to secure more playing time ahead of the World Cup.

While the Brazil dream is still far away (Mata has been named in the provisional squad but is unlikely to be in the final 23-man party) his short time at United has at least had its highs. He was named United's player of the month in both February and May, and scored a brace in the first game of Ryan Giggs' reign as interim coach.

However life certainly hasn't been smooth for the former Valencia player during his time in Manchester. Even after joining a club crying out for his creative flair, Mata had to fight to secure a place in his preferred playmaking role - and was regularly dumped on the wing by Moyes.

"I feel really comfortable as a playmaker. Last year I played the whole season and there was my best season so far . When I play in the flank I also try to go to the middle because I do not consider myself a true winger," he said at the time.

Now Louis Van Gaal's appointment as United's new manager leaves Mata facing a similar problem. The Dutchman is a coach who wants players to adapt his system and not the opposite. As an advocate of the Dutch football paradigm he likes playing 4-3-3, with wingers, and has never found space for a No10.

His Ajax team, which conquered the Champions League, didn't have a genuine playmaker, instead relying on wingers like Marc Overmars and versatile forwards such as Jari Litmanen.

Meanwhile, his two spells at Barcelona were marked by his rifts with Rivaldo and Juan Roman Riquelme. During his first tenure at the Nou Camp he forced Rivaldo to play on the wing, while during his second stint in Catalonia, he demand the Brazilian be sold and replaced with a winger like Kili Gonzalez. However the officials opted instead for another number 10 in the shape of Riquelme, and a repeat of the Rivaldo impasse ensued.

Fortunately for van Gaal his time in the Bundesliga was different, as Bayern Munich were tailored for him, with two wide players in Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, but now at United the Dutch boss will find a team closer to his old Barcelona charges. The most talented players at the current squad are number 10s like Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and, of course, Mata.

It seems unlikely Mata will become embroiled in a public spat with van Gaal; he is far too nice a man for that. But, once again, it appears luck has abandoned the Spaniard and he will have to find a new role, attempting to succeed where Rivaldo and Riquelme could not.

Mata may have won the World Cup, the European Championship and the Champions League, but, if he thrives under Louis van Gaal, it will rank among his greatest achievements.