Footballers don’t come much more honest than Juan Mata.
The Spaniard has been a fan favourite at every club he has represented, not just because of his technical quality, but because he wears his heart in his sleeve, and genuinely wishes the best for his team.
Mata is currently one of the longest-serving members at Old Trafford, having arrived under David Moyes back in 2014. The midfielder has recently been talking about what it’s like to represent Manchester United with 90min, and also touched on former boss Jose Mourinho.
The 32-year-old reflected on the latter taking charge of the Red Devils: “I could see that, when he came to Manchester United at a different stage of my career, everyone was saying ‘okay you have no future at the club, you’re going to have to leave, whatever’. I was calm with myself.
“I know what I am as a player. I know my will to adapt, and I’m proud that time proved me right as I felt an important player at Manchester United. What I try to focus on is things I can control: my attitude, my qualities as a player, keeping my confidence high, keeping my physical state high, and that’s it.”
Despite initial reports, as the player references, the midfielder became an important player under Jose. Mata has always been keen to offer his services for any of the managers he has played under, most recently taking up a squad rotational role.
On representing the club, the Spaniard said: “Well, it’s not easy to manage the responsibility of playing for Manchester United. After every single game, every single day, there’s news about Manchester United. Signing players, whatever happened in the game – the expectations are incredibly high.
“Since the first moment I arrived in the helicopter, in my presentation, I felt the size of the club, the structure of the club, and every day when I go to training or to play, I feel privileged and lucky to say that I am a Manchester United player. I feel proud.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to stop and think where I am, where I come from and everything I have achieved in my career. Thinking about the kid that was playing in Oviedo with his friends, now I’m playing at Old Trafford every week.”
The archetype of a professional, Mata has enjoyed a productive start to the campaign. In this more pragmatic role, the playmaker has contributed to 4 goals in 4 games this season, three of which have come in the EFL Cup.
Solskjaer has been keen to filter out stagnating figures from his squad, bringing through younger options. Mata has not been identified as a former, but instead, a role model for new players to warm to. He is quite the presence in the dressing room, and could one day take on a coaching position at the club.