Juan is now 31 years old and has tallied up 243 total Premier League appearances in his time in England’s top division, establishing himself as one of the most experienced players in our current squad. Manchester United have already released 2 other senior players this summer (Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia) so losing Mata in addition to this may have proved to be unwise with the best interests of the whole squad in mind. His attitude and experience alongside his model personality and maturity are all characteristics vital to a successful football dressing room and those which should be valued in an age where immature behaviour from professionals seems to be becoming evermore frequent. He therefore remains a fantastic role model for the younger players in the squad e.g. Rashford, Dalot, Greenwood. In addition, Solskjaer appears to be targeting young players as part of his summer rebuild with Daniel James (21) already signing from Swansea City as well as having strong links with Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21), Matthijs De Ligt (19) and James Maddison (22) amongst others.
Having already lost fan favourite, Ander Herrera, losing Juan Mata before the likes of Marcos Rojo, Alexis Sanchez, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young would be ludicrous and one which would upset many more fans should any of the aforementioned players receive any kind of new deal or remain part of the first team plans. With this in mind, in conjunction with the uncertainty currently surrounding players such as Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, releasing Juan Mata at this point in time seems an unnecessary move when there are many other pressing issues to deal with first.
Even in his best season with Manchester United, Mata is yet to crack double figures for either goals or assists in the Premier League and his diminishing returns over the last few seasons are shown by the stats presented above. He only managed 3 goals and 2 assists last season in the Premier League and considering he played 1293 minutes, this means that he contributed either a goal or assist every 259 minutes. Although last season was a poor one for many United players, only 5 goals scored or created from a player who starts in either a right midfield or central attacking midfield role is undoubtedly underwhelming. He is not getting any younger and it is evident to anyone who has watched him play recently that he has lost a few yards of pace, although his technical ability is still superb.
One of the key reasons Pep Guardiola was able to transform Manchester City into consecutive Premier League champions is because his board backed him and acted ruthlessly in the transfer market. Not only spending big money on world class players but also by selling numerous former key players that Guardiola simply did not want as part of his team e.g. Zabaleta, Clichy, Kolarov, Hart, Navas, Nasri and Fernando. Manchester United lack this ruthlessness and it often seems that sentimentality rules over too many transfer decisions. Realistically, if Mata was in the squad at City for Guardiola’s arrival, I highly doubt he would still be there. If Manchester United want to begin to even think about challenging City and Liverpool over the next few years, then a completely new approach needs to be taken to selling players as well as signing them.
As mentioned, his experience and attitude will be of great value to the younger players and if his role is limited to mainly substitute appearances, then I think keeping him on for one more season is harmless when we have many other Ashley Young shaped issues to resolve first. I also believe it is vital he is utilised as a central attacking midfielder rather than playing from the right as his lack of pace and tendency to come inside has resulted in our right sided attacks becoming a significant weakness, often being completely non-existent.