This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
One of the most amiable footballers in the game, Juan Mata has proven himself to be a fantastic servant to English football with both Chelsea and Manchester United.
The Spaniard is a real fan favourite at both clubs due to what he does off the pitch, but has seen his role at Old Trafford become more and more limited over the last couple of seasons. The 31-year-old made 32 appearances across all competitions in the last campaign, but was never really considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.
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But perhaps more than anything it is his off-the-pitch contributions that United are in dire need of. The former World Cup winner with Spain is a bona-fide role model and carries himself in the best possible light.
Indeed, after seeing Mata sign a new contract with the club earlier in June, Solskjaer said: “Juan is the ultimate professional and one of the most intelligent players I have worked with. He is a great example to our younger players in his approach. He understands what it means to be a Manchester United player and has embraced everything about this great club.
“As well as everything he brings on the pitch, we have some fantastic young players here and I know that Juan’s vast experience will help them to reach their potential over the coming seasons.”
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Such is the high regard Mata is held with inside United, that he was named captain for both of the club’s opening pre-season games against Perth Glory and Leeds. As Solskjaer looks to add a youthful edge to the side, Mata’s experience will be of a major help to get the best out of players like Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Daniel James, amongst others.
Amidst all the drama surrounding Paul Pogba’s career at the moment, Mata’s responsibility, humility and professionalism stand out like a sore thumb. Whilst he may in the twilight years of his career at Old Trafford, there is no doubting that Mata remains an integral part of the club’s future.