Manchester United new-boy Juan Mata described his Old Trafford debut as ‘amazing’ as he played 85 minutes of the club's 2-0 victory against Cardiff.
Mata was playing his first Premier League game since Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho substituted him at Southampton on New Year’s Day and he played a part in the second United goal, which was finished off in some style by Ashley Young.
“It’s been amazing,” Mata told Sky Sports. “The most important thing is we won and hopefully this is the start of a good run of results. It’s been an amazing game for me, I tried my best and my team-mates were very good. The atmosphere was just unbelievable.
“It’s been a while since I did it [played a match], since the January 1st. I am very happy to have played and I look forward to playing more.
“I feel very good. When you are playing alongside players like Robin [van Persie], Chicharito, [Wayne] Rooney and Adnan [Januzaj], all of them they are very good. I look forward to playing at the weekend now.”
When asked what his abiding memory of his first night as a United player will be, he was quick to suggest his rapturous ovation from the Old Trafford faithful was a personal highlight.
“When I went out at the start and all the stand was up cheering me, it is something I will never forget,” added Mata.
The 37 million pound United record signing won praise from his new manager David Moyes, as the Spanish international made his mark before being replaced by Januzaj late on.
“I though he did very well,” said Moyes. “He helped make the goal, he had some really good moments for us and I think he should be really pleased with how he played tonight.
“He looked like he wasn’t too far away even though he still needs a bit more match practice. He hasn’t played as much as he would have liked recently, so I wanted to keep him on as long as I could and hopefully that will help him.
“It was massive to have Robin and Wayne back as well and I’m looking forward to getting them all onto the pitch together.”
When all three players do make the starting line-up, Moyes said he intends to use Mata on the flanks.
Although the former Chelsea player began as a No. 10, operating behind fit-again forward Van Persie, while Rooney started on the bench after missing the last five games, Moyes said that he will not break up their alliance to accommodate United’s record signing.
He explained: “I can play him in any role. I can play him off the left and I can play him off the right which allows me to keep Robin and Wayne as a partnership. I am quite comfortable with that, and if at any times I need him to do another job, [like as a] No. 10, he is quite capable of doing that.
“We know that we will use Juan in different positions and we will get used to him over the coming weeks and months. I wanted to see him and Robin out there. It was good to get them minutes.
“I thought Juan did really well. I thought he created some really good openings. I was a little bit concerned how his match fitness was going to be but when we got the second goal I was able to give him some more minutes and keep him playing. Hopefully that will help him. He has not played much for a month or so.
“We are in the same situation with Robin, we knew he would be playing for 60 minutes, and I couldn’t really risk Wayne for any more time.”
Moyes feels Mata’s major impact will be on United’s standard of play. He added: “I hope we will play better, that would be the biggest thing, and I hope we are going to create more chances, especially at Old Trafford, where for some reason we have not been able to take our opportunities.
The United manager is certain the presence of a fully-fit Mata, Rooney and Van Persie will help United, who are seventh in the Premier League, progress up the table but acknowledged there is plenty of room for improvement.
He added: “The results with them will get much better. We need to get them in the right physical condition now to make that happen.”
“I want to be more convincing, I want to win better and play much better. For the vision I have got, we have got a long way to go.”
Moyes had no update to offer about Wayne Rooney’s contract situation and said Michael Carrick’s ankle injury is “not too bad”.