A look back at Juan Mata's first year at Manchester United
Juan Mata had been Chelsea’s best player of the year for two consecutive seasons and probably was the best number 10 in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho though had a different set of eyes. To the amazement of the footballing world, Mourinho kept on benching the world beater. However criticisms were not in huge proportions as everyone knew the genius that Mourinho is.
He had benched Kaka at Real Madrid before selling him to AC Milan and then there was the saga of Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez. Apparently for Jose, Casillas was just not good enough. Mourinho remained unfazed. So after benching Mata for half of the season speculations were rife that Mata will be off in January. Chelsea fans were not too bothered.
Manchester United fans on the other hand never, in their wildest dreams, had thought of seeing Mata in their colours. They had been cheated more than once in the summer transfer window with the likes of Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas & their boyhood hero Cristiano Ronaldo being linked with the Old Trafford club. They never came. Maybe they never wanted to. David Moyes was not a popular figure among these players. So Juan Mata? Nah.
I got up early in the morning of 24th January, 2014 with the expectation of some lowly signings may be, may be a defender or may be a defensive midfielder because that is what United exactly needed. In the afternoon, the ‘Special One’ in a grimacing manner announced that Chelsea had agreed on a fee to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United. It was a high-profile transfer. Fans had to rub their eyes and watch his interview a number of times to believe that Juan Mata was going to be wearing red.
Manchester United confirmed later in the day that a transfer fee had been agreed, but that the deal was still contingent on Mata agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. The transfer was completed the following day, with Manchester United paying Chelsea a then club record fee of £37.1 million, with Mata signing a contract until the summer of 2018. He got a hero’s welcome at Old Trafford and David Moyes finally did something to make the fans happy.
Mata settled to life at Manchester United and started scoring goals and providing assists at a rapid pace. He has already scored 11 goals in 34 matches. Let's have a look at his first year at United.
- A player arriving on a helicopter was never seen before in football. But a player of his calibre deserved such a reception and of course being a record signing made it compulsory to give Mata a gala welcome. He was greeted by then manager David Moyes and also by one of his very good friends David De Gea. David and Juan were teammates in the Spanish under 19 team and also went on to become World Cup teammates last year. Mata was offered the iconic number 7 shirt by Moyes but he declined. Instead he wore the number 8 on his back. It was fair enough given the type of Mata’s play which was different from United’s no. 7s. Whatever the number may be the Red Devils had inherited a fantastic player.
- ??Playing at Old Trafford for the first time is always a delight for any player. Mata made his debut at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ against Cardiff City on 28 January and provided one assist in the 2–0 home victory. His assist was a rather simple one for Ashley Young who provided a bullet of a finish. But his overall game was so gracious and delightful that fans sensed some good months in the horizon. Well it was not to be but Juan Mata continued to weave his magic for the club.
- First goal for any player playing for any club is always special & for Juan Mata it came on March 29, 2014 against Aston Villa. It was a huge 4-1 victory at home. Though the goal was not a beautiful one by any means it was important for him and the fans who were waiting for Mata to break the duck. He is a scoring midfielder and his prowess of passing and vision makes him a deadly attacker. Unlike David Silva and Mesut Ozil, Mata always gets into advanced positions looking for goals.
- Manchester United’s horrid season ended with David Moyes getting sacked but the Scot made a brilliant move to bring the Spaniard into the team. Mata already has given some delightful performances over the course of the year but the game against Newcastle last year where he scored a brace and setup another was his best performance in an United shirt. Manchester United were away at St. James Park and registered a routine 4-0 away win. His first goal was a perfectly placed free kick after which he ran all the way towards the bench to celebrate with David De Gea. When later asked about his reactions he said, “David told me that I would score.” Well Juan why doesn’t he do that every week? Moving ahead to his second goal which was a cool and calm finish He deceived two defenders alongwith the goalkeeper to slot home. He has continued to give fabulous performances such as the ones against Norwich last season and against Crystal Palace and Liverpool this season but the one against Newcastle was his best match till date.
- Mata has overhauled the likes of David Beckham, Thiery Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best free kick taker in the Premier League. With his conversion rate being 17.9% he has now been declared as the free kick king. Well how does this stat fit in here? It does as we are looking at Mata’s best goal for United and it is undoubtedly a free kick that he scored against Southampton in last season’s last match to earn a draw for his team. It was a difficult angle for the equaliser but the ace Spaniard made no mistake in placing his shot. He did in such a manner that the goal keeper could not move an inch. He has scored some good goals for United which also includes the winners against Crystal Palace and Stoke City this season. But the sublime free kick against the Saints stand out. Relieve Mata’s best United goal here:
The little magician was the only good thing that happened for Manchester United and their fans in a season that they will believe never happened. After his signing he has been more than a team player for United. Even when benched, Mata has remained loyal to the club and a player of his callibre must be respected & given time should he face a bad period of form. Lets all hope he continues to mesmerize the world.