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3 Manchester United players who can be Juan Mata's long-term replacement

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1.95K   //    10 Sep 2018, 19:33 IST

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Mata, pictured here against Leicester, has been frustrated by a lack of regular minutes at United...

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has been at the club for four-and-a-half years now. Signed by David Moyes for £37.5m from Chelsea, the Spanish international has produced excellent creative moments and important goals alike. 

However, in recent seasons, his minutes and productivity in the final third have progressively dwindled under Jose Mourinho's watch and a lack of regular first-team opportunities has posed questions about his future

Not being involved completely in United's past two matchday squads before the international break speaks volumes about how Mourinho must value him. The fact that, at 30-years-old, he's unreliable defensively and contributions in the final third are not as effective as they once were, doesn't look good from his perspective. 

With that in mind, Mata has made more appearances (188) at Old Trafford than their Premier League rivals and La Liga side Valencia in his career. His creative presence will inevitably need to be replaced - so here's a look at three potential long-term replacements that could succeed the Spaniard at some stage soon: 

#3 Fred

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Fred in action against Leicester in the Premier League curtain raiser last month

The 25-year-old midfielder, signed for a reported £52m fee this past summer, was heavily courted by top European clubs but chose United - namely to work under Jose Mourinho's tutelage.

Just how long that marriage will last remains to be seen, though it's clear the Brazil international is held in high regard and the club displayed a real belief in his abilities to splash so much money for his services.

Mourinho told the club's official website this, in July: "We think that players like Fred and Andreas Pereira, are more technical, passing and playing in short spaces and maybe connecting with the attacking players."

Fred has been predominantly playing in a central role, though it's clear his attacking tendencies are waiting to expand in a free-flowing position, similar to Paul Pogba and how he flourishes when given freedom to express himself.

He has created four key passes, maintained 87% pass accuracy, made five interceptions and completed 22 recoveries already this term after four league games - so why not? An all-action midfielder who can balance attack with defence well, it'd be a suitable Mata replacement.

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