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Ashley Young is loving Mata's instant impact

“He has gelled straight away with the way we play. He is going to add something special to the squad.”

Mata and van Persie: a nightmare partnership for defenders.
Mata and van Persie: a nightmare partnership for defenders.
Image: Dave Thompson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

ASHLEY YOUNG BELIEVES Juan Mata’s arrival has taken competition for places to another level at Manchester United as the champions prepare to visit Stoke.

United’s £37 million signing made his debut in the 2-0 win over Cardiff on Tuesday.

That match saw Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney return from injury lay-offs, and both will be in contention for a place at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

It would mean United’s star strikers starting together for just the eighth time in 24 Premier League matches this season. The availability of the three players means other places in the front four are sure to be squeezed.

England winger Young, who will be battling with Adnan Januzaj, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck for the last spot in manager David Moyes’s strongest side, said: “You have to be on the ball. You have to put in big performances every week. We have a big squad and we can rotate the team.

“When you are playing well, getting goals and assists, you are there in the manager’s thoughts,” added the 28-year-old, who scored United’s second goal against Cardiff following Dutch striker van Persie’s sixth-minute opener at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

“We have competition for places and that keeps you on your toes. You want to keep playing well and training well, because that is the only way to keep yourself in the team,” Young explained.

“Robin is a goalscorer. You put him in the box and he will score, and he has done that again.

“There will be a lot of talk about Juan’s arrival and the fact that we have broken the transfer record for him, but he looks like he has been here for years.

“It was his first game but he has gelled straight away with the way we play. He is going to add something special to the squad.”

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But Saturday’s game is likely to come too soon for Marouane Fellaini, who has been absent since December with a wrist injury, while Michael Carrick is also set to miss out with an ankle problem.

Nani has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since 7 December and is unlikely to return against Mark Hughes’s Stoke .

Despite beating Cardiff, United are still 13 points behind leaders and local rivals Manchester City and six adrift of the fourth Champions League spot currently occupied by bitter foes Liverpool.

- © AFP, 2014

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