Jose Mourinho, for whatever reason, didn’t rate Juan Mata as an important part of his (then) future plans at Chelsea and he was eventually sold to Manchester United. The dramatic irony lies in the fact that Mourinho too would not be part of the future plans of Chelsea, while Mata would go on to regularly excel in a team struggling to truly recover from the retirement of Alex Ferguson, and eventually be one of the few shining lights in Jose’s current chapter at Old Trafford.
The diminutive creative midfielder in previous regimes was always the right player, at the right club, at the wrong time. You gotta feel for him. Constantly having to prove himself worthy in the dreary David Moyes era followed by the often bizarre tenure of Louis Van Gaal, Mata once again having to step up playing for a manager who didn’t have much faith in him in the latter part of his Chelsea career. Credit must be given to him as he always stepped up, and this season is no different.
He’s notched up 3 goals and an assists in his 8 league appearances thus far, most of his strikes coming at crucial times. Man United have also done better when he has starts, in fact, they’ve won all but one game when he has started.
Mata is a cool customer and was Chelsea’s fans choice as player of the year twice in a row before moving to Old Trafford. Those who over analyze seem to suggest that it was because of his popularity that Mourinho felt somehow threatened and therefore banished him into the land of Substitutia, a warped wobbly land that lies between playing regularly and not playing at all. It was from these bit parts at Stamford bridge that ultimately led to him making the move away. As fate would have it, he must now work with very same man. The difference this time around is that there are bigger egos and names for Jose to wrestle with, allowing Mata to just do his talking on the pitch….. and also the fact that Mourinho needs him more than ever. The ball is round, as they say.
While the new signings have not quite set Old Trafford alight as most fans would’ve hoped, their inclusion have actually helped the Spanish play-maker shine. Surrounded by class players like Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and with the spotlight glaring in their (expensive) eyes, he and Ander Herrera have been doing well. Even in games that United have lost or drawn, he’s always busy trying to carve out a chance, trying to keep the keeper honest & busy. One has to admire his resilience, how remains unnerved despite by his often tumultuous surrounds.
Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho has been phenomenal this season but readers will be surprised to learn that Juan Mata has a better record against the Top 6, showing that he tends to thrive and perform even better on the big occasion. Manchester United face some big games ahead and if they have any hope of catching up or sticking with the pack, they will need Juan to keep doing what he has been doing for as long as anyone can remember : Keep going… no Mata what.
(Apologies, I resisted till now )