Jose Mourinho made an almighty fuss of shunting Juan Mata out of Stamford Bridge and, with the Portuguese likely to arrive at Old Trafford this summer, the Spaniard must be prepared for the same again.
Mourinho always remained coy about how much influence he had in trying to sell Mata, but that was surely down to keeping the fans on side. The ex-Chelsea manager quickly identified the playmaker as a player that he did not have much interest in using, and before too long had given Mata a cosy spot on the bench.
If Mourinho arrives at Old Trafford this summer, where could Juan Mata go? The assumption must be that ‘The Special One’ will immediately look to move on the blogging Spaniard, with the ex-Real Madrid boss certain to place huge value on industry – exactly as he has done at his previous clubs. Mata is a player that needs a team built around him and Jose Mourinho does not seem to do that for anybody. Kaka, one of the great players of a generation, was ostracised by Mourinho, after all.
‘Mou’ demands a huge amount from his players and they simply must contributing in all facets of the game – even if they are one of the greatest creative players in the world. Mourinho demands such a great amount from his attacking players when out of possession that it has previously put people off playing for him and it clearly had a negative effect on Eden Hazard this season. Mata simply does not have the physique to play in such an intense system and it will only be a matter of time until Mourinho moves him on.
Despite out performing Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard in successful take ons, chances created and key passes per 90 minutes this season, Mata has largely provided underwhelming performances for Van Gaal. He’s been a far cry from the player that carried Chelsea to Europa League success under Rafa Benitez, although his creativity has been crippled by the granite-strong structure of Manchester United’s midfield.
He has, however, often been one of the main culprits in slowing down their attacking flow and Mourinho will have noticed this.
Assuming Mourinho drops the axe on Mata’s head once more, the options for the Spaniard are incredibly limited. A return to Spain would surely be most likely, but he is either not good enough or not suitable to move to any of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid. Diego Simeone’s side are the antithesis of the way that Juan Mata wants to play the game and, if Isco or James Rodriguez can’t nail down a place, it is pretty improbable for the Manchester United man to become a regular at Real Madrid. Potentially a return to Valencia is the best career choice for Mata, unless he could be tempted by a drop down the Premier League table.
In the modern pressing-obsessed era, Mata is a luxury player. A luxury player will never be guaranteed starts and, crucially, must produce spectacularly when he is played. Mata, since his penultimate campaign at Chelsea, is yet to show he can control games and win his team matches. For such a gifted player, it is a surprise that he seems to have lost his edge.
Mourinho’s direct attack on Mata’s confidence looks to have taken hold of his entire career, and Manchester United will have to pull off some remarkable negotiating if they are to break even close to even on the ex-Chelsea man this summer.
No Premier League side who may want a player of Mata’s ilk will be prepared to splash the sort of money that Manchester United would demand and, with that in mind, we could be about to see a test of Jose Mourinho. Can he adapt his play to suit a less physically adept, slower paced number 10? It will be intriguing to watch.