|Image from the Manchester Evening News|
Juan Manuel Mata García was born 28 April 1988, who currently plays as a midfielder for Manchester United. He mostly plays as a central attacking midfielder, but he can also play on the wing. Mata has an incredibly impressive list of football achievements having played the majority of his professional career in the English Premier league. In August 2011, Mata signed for Chelsea for a fee believed to be in the region of €28 million, and in his debut season was part of the team that won the Champions League and FA Cup. The following year, Chelsea won the Europa League making Mata and teammate Fernando Torres the first players to hold the Champions League, Europa League, World Cup and the European Championships simultaneously. His career stats at Chelsea a total of 135 appearances and scoring 33 goals in three seasons and it was no surprise he was sold to Manchester United in January 2014, for a then transfer fee club record of £37.1 million after a falling out with then Chelsea manger, Jose Mourinho.
Mata made his debut for Manchester United against Cardiff City on 28 January and provided one assist in the 2–0 home victory. Mata scored his first goal for United in a 4–1 win over Aston Villa on 29 March 2014. Considered one of the best attacking midfielders of his time, he makes up for a lack of pace with his control, technique, passing and vision, which allows him to register many assists at 5’7 he lacks great strength or aerial ability, but is agile and nimble. Predominantly left footed, he is also a well-known free kick specialist. On 19 June 2019, it was confirmed that Mata had signed a new two-year contract with Manchester United, keeping him at the club until June 2021 with the option of a further year. This ended months of speculation over his future with links back to Spain including Valencia and Barcelona. So far his stats at Manchester United are very impressive as in seven seasons at Old Trafford, Mata has made 249 appearances and chipped in with 48 invaluable goals across all competitions as well as 42 assists totalling 90 goal involvements in almost 250 games. In my opinion the role of Mata has been undervalued his influence on the games he plays in is displayed in the creativity and way he reads the game. The amount of assists and positional play is really to be admired. The trophies Mata has acquired at Man United are the FA Cup in 2016 the EFL Cup in 2017 and Europa League in 2017.
Juan Mata insists he is embracing his role as a mentor to Manchester United’s next generation. Despite not being guaranteed a start under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the 31-year-old remains upbeat about what he can offer at this stage of his career, especially to the younger players at the club.
“I have been playing in a club, and in English football and professionally for 12, 13 years now so that gives me experience,” Mata said on the official Manchester United podcast. “Especially in difficult situations, to behave in a certain way or give advice to the young players.” And Mata pinpointed four young players who have big futures at the club with his belief he can contribute plenty off the pitch in their development. “ I think he [Solskjaer] values that also. Me as a player, what I can give on the pitch, but also that I will try my best off the pitch intended for the new players that come,” Mata added. “Like right now Bruno [Fernandes] and Odion [Ighalo] and for the youngsters that come through the academy like, Brandon [Williams], Chongy [Tahith Chong], Angel [Gomes] and Jimmy [Garner].” Mata is still missing the Premier League title from his honours since moving to England in 2011 and he remains eager to acquire it with United as Solskjaer continues his rebuild. “I would love to win it and of course I want to win it before I finish playing,” Mata added.
I think the players who can learn from Mata’s experience will be able to develop their skills and abilities will be enhanced and hopefully the new generation of players can deliver on the elusive title that would complete a truly remarkable career for a fantastic player.