Manchester United’s midfield maestro, Juan Mata, could be in for a rough season when he is reunited with former boss Jose Mourinho. The pair weren’t the best of friends at Chelsea and the Spanish midfielder was often left out of favour by the Portuguese manager. A £37m offer from Manchester United was far too good for Jose to refuse and Mata was axed from the Chelsea squad in favour of Oscar, who made the No.10 role his own under Jose Mourinho. However, with circumstances different at Manchester United, can Juan Mata play his way back into Jose’s selection choices or will he be left to sit on the side-lines once again?
The Spaniard, like all of the Manchester United players, will be given the chance to impress the new manager at their training ground in Carrington on Mourinho’s arrival. However, the midfielder will have to work twice as hard to get in his good books. Unlike Rashford and Lingard, whose youthful performances impressed greatly last season, Mourinho already has an opinion on Mata’s ability and it will be harder to overturn a decision than to make one. The young players at United will have the opportunity to show Mourinho for the first time what they’re made of but Mata will have to do his best to prove Jose wrong.
Juan Mata has done well since his move to Manchester United and has often been preferred in a wide role under Louis Van Gaal. It is the very position that Jose Mourinho deemed he wasn’t suited to though and after performing there for the last two and a half years, Mata could be forced to change. Mourinho has axed the player once and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t do the same again. Oscar is no longer a direct competition for a position in the starting eleven but there’s plenty of quality which could be on its way to Manchester who could cause Mata some problems. The Spaniard has always seen himself as a wide player in a front three and values space and freedom to pick a pass or to control the attack. However, with Jose’s arrival, a whole host of players could be joining him and Mata’s position may be compromised once again.
Zlatan Ibrahimović’s arrival is imminent and it is highly unlikely Mourinho would leave a player of that quality on the side-lines. Martial would be expected to start too and it’s hard to see how you could drop Marcus Rashford after such an impressive debut season for Manchester United. Wayne Rooney’s form in recent months has been sublime and he’ll undoubtedly take up a role behind Ibrahimović or a little deeper in midfield. That leaves little room for Mata and with Borussia Dortmund’s, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and others also on Mourinho’s radar, there’s not much hope for the Spaniard.
Mata wasn’t even a regular starter for United last season. He was always the go-to-man in games where United looked like they were struggling but he wasn’t necessarily guaranteed a starting position – though he did play a major role in the squad. However, his performances were always applauded and he has built a strong relationship with his teammates and the fans in Manchester, who like the Spaniard’s creative style of play. He can always dictate possession and has the ability to produce chances that not many midfielders in the United squad have the quality to do. He’s certainly got talent and even Jose won’t deny that. Despite their differences at Chelsea, Mata was still successful and it caused controversy when the two-time Chelsea Player of the Year was sold to the Blues’ league rivals.
But you can’t help feeling that no matter how well Juan Mata performs in training, if Jose gets his way and the players he wants to see at Old Trafford arrive, then Mata would stand a chance. Although Mourinho has vowed that every player will be given the opportunity to impress him, Mata must’ve had a sinking feeling in his stomach when it was announced the former Chelsea boss would be heading to Old Trafford. The only thing the Spaniard can do now is to train well, be patient and be willing to adapt his positioning in order to give himself the best opportunity of getting into Mourinho’s starting eleven. The 28 year-old would’ve loved the opportunity to showcase what he could do at the European Championships, but instead he must use the time away from international competition to get himself into the best shape possible and turn his focus to Manchester United. With the fans and his team-mates on board, the only person left to please is the new manager but it’s the only person that counts and this season could be the most challenging in the midfielder’s ten year career.