Ever since his rather stunning arrival at Manchester United’s training ground via helicopter, Juan Mata has always been a fan favourite. The lovable Spaniard made an immediate impression amongst supporters, mainly down to his willingness to learn and abide by the Red Devils’ traditions and history.
When Jose Mourinho took charge last summer, many thought (myself included) that this would call time on Mata’s career in Manchester – as the self-proclaimed Special One sold him whilst they worked together at Chelsea.
In fact, the opposite has happened and it feels like their working relationship is stronger than ever. Modern football is a squad game, and the 28-year-old has been a brilliant player for Mourinho’s Manchester United this season; he’s also scored some important goals.
Now Mata has been speaking to the media about his relationship with his Portuguese coach, and he is clearly full of praise for Mourinho, before adding that he has changed from how he was when the pair were at Chelsea together.
“There was a lot of talk about my relationship at Chelsea with Jose Mourinho that was false, that I became a pariah, that we were in constant conflict… Of course I was not happy to play less than before, and that I was happy to go to Manchester United, but our relationships have always remained cordial, although communication had become more difficult in the end.” Mata told L’Equipe, translated wonderfully by the guys over at Sport Witness.
“The fact is that with Mourinho, even when you are not in the starting lineup, you continue to learn. He is a coach that is crammed with ideas, who is incredibly meticulous, demanding, and pays attention to every detail. With him, as with all my coaches, Emery, Koeman, Benitez, I learned a lot, even though I was no longer the holder of the two Previous years. The press has inflated our “disagreement” because journalists could not understand that a player can have a normal relationship with a manager who uses him less than the previous one. I am not going to say that we have a privileged relationship, but I am a professional, and it goes without saying.”
“He’s since changed. He’s in a different environment, in a different club, with a different squad, and a different type of football, the goal of which is to attack and create goal opportunities. This is what we do, and he is satisfied with the performance.”
It’s interesting that Mata mentions Manchester United tend to play more attacking football than Chelsea, and perhaps this is something that Mourinho is still trying to adapt to.
Our manager has always been known for his defensive style of play, particularly in the Premier League. However, I think the gaffer knows that the Manchester United fans are used to swashbuckling attacking play, and that’s something he is still adjusting to.
The way that Juan Mata talks so highly of Mourinho speaks volumes about them both. They are winners, and I get the impression they’d do whatever it takes to deliver trophies at Old Trafford.