Juan Mata.

Five things we learned from Mata's UTD Podcast

Juan Mata had plenty to say on his UTD Podcast, with hosts Helen Evans and David May.

The long-serving midfielder discussed a variety of topics and came out with some interesting revelations.

Our no.8 talked about life with the Galacticos at Real Madrid and disclosed who took him under his wing in the early days at Valencia.

He relived the time he ran the quickest in his life and lifted the lid on his relationships with Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Finally, he was asked about what the future holds - will it be in coaching or with his Common Goal initiative?

RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE GALACTICOS

Joining Real Madrid from Real Oviedo, aged 15, was a culture shock for the schoolboy. “It was incredible to be at the club at that time,” he recalled. “I remember being at the training ground and they had a pool area and there was a lift there from the first-team dressing room and I remember being in the pool and hearing the lift coming one day and you were always thinking who is going to get out of the lift!

“At the time, when I was playing for Real’s Under-23s, the likes of Beckham were there, Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo, Raul, Casillas, Roberto Carlos, one of the greatest teams ever so that lift was our dream! They were all very nice and we shared conversations and I also trained with them a few times. There was a trip that a few of us from the Under-23s did with them for a Champions League game in Kiev. Real had qualified already and it was the last game of the group so they brought some kids, which was us. 

“I didn’t play but I was on the trip and I sat by Ruud van Nistelrooy on the way and he was nice to me. He gave me very good advice and was telling me about things I should do. The next day on the way to training, I sat in front of Antonio Cassano, the Italian striker and he was telling me the complete opposite and talking about all the parties he’d been to in Italy! After 10 minutes he asked me my name and then he said: ‘Don’t do anything I’ve told you to do and then you will have a career!’ [Laughs]”

VILLA'S SUPPORT WAS CRUCIAL

Spain striker David Villa played a key role in helping Juan adapt to top-flight football. “When I was in Valencia after the Ruud conversation when I was 19, and I was sitting in the dressing room next to David Villa,” he said. “And he's from Asturias where I'm from also, so he was like a big brother for me at the time. He was taking care of me and I think you always need someone to support you at specific times and important times in your life, especially when you are new to a professional dressing room. You come as a youngster from the Academy, like Marcus Rashford came in the beginning. He was shy, and now he's more mature. I think it's important to have this balance in a team, where you have the energy and the enthusiasm of the youngsters, and the experience and the knowledge of the experienced ones. Not the old ones [laughs] the experienced ones!”

THE FASTEST I RAN IN MY LIFE

Juan talked about the pinnacle of any footballer's career - lifting the biggest trophy in the game. “Winning the World Cup is difficult to explain, also for the first time in Spain’s history. We’d been almost there all the time, playing good football and reaching the quarter-finals but had never made it to the semi-final or final. That year, in South Africa, everything was like magic for us.

“The moment Andres Iniesta scored in extra-time, I was on the bench and running towards him. I think I’ve never ran as fast as that sprint in my life! We ran to the corner to celebrate and what I remember was we were celebrating but the rest was silence. It was where all the Dutch fans were sitting. We were screaming but it was silence around us so it was like ‘wow’. The second was the moment the referee, Howard Webb, whistled for the end of the game. It was just ecstasy, screaming and we ran around – I kept a ball up my shirt. I wanted to keep something. We were running around and feeling we have made history here.”

UTD Podcast: Mata's first meeting with LVGVideo

HOW MY FIRST MEETING WITH VAN GAAL WENT

It was a nervous moment but Juan recalls what it was like coming to Louis van Gaal's office soon after the Dutchman's appointment. “He was scary. I tell you. He was a very nice man; a very, very nice man; very genuine and very sensible. You wouldn't expect that but he was very sensible.

“He could get emotional and was crying sometimes, when he was speaking about important matters. When he found the right values, the right football, he got emotional. I remember the first meeting we all had with him was in LA, when we were doing the pre-season tour. The manager said he wants to meet you one-by-one in this room, after dinner, and I was like okay. Everyone went, whatever and it was my turn.

“I arrive in the room and it was him, Ryan Giggs and a bottle of Rioja, red wine, with three glasses. He was like: 'Do you want a drink?' and I was: 'No, no, I'm fine'. He had a drink and said: 'Tell me who you are'. I mean my name is Juan, I am 26, I play football. 'No, no. Tell me who you are as a man. Do you have family? What do you find important in life?' And I remember he had a paper where he had set up the tactics for the team that year. 'Where do you feel you will fit best here?'

“I was like here. No? Here. No? So we had trained that pre-season with five at the back, a two and a no.10. He put me in the no.10 and said I was going to play here. It was great. I didn't want to put it myself. From that moment, he can look scary face to face and someitmes goes close to you but, after that, he was a very warm and genuine man. He was more than a football manager with tactics, he is a great human being and I learned a lot from him.”

UTD Podcast: Mata's relationship with MourinhoVideo

LIFE UNDER JOSE

So how did Juan feel when Jose Mourinho took charge, the man who had sold him to United from Chelsea? Did they talk about it at the start? No, nothing,” he replied. “So many people were asking me, 'What did you say in the beginning?' I was like:  'I'll tell you – we spoke about Manchester, and a game that Barcelona had played a few days ago, and football’. From now on, it was completely normal and good relationship between us. The respect is mutual, and we never had any personal problem.

”The situation was a football situation. He played in a certain way that maybe didn't suit perfectly my qualities as a player, and that's it. Sometimes it happens in football. But my mentality was: okay, I'm going to try. My family was a bit scared. The fans were telling me: 'What are you going to do?' But I had it clear in my mind that I'm going to stay and prove that I can play much more than people think, and I did. And it's one of the things that I feel very proud [of] in my career: having made that decision, testing myself and keeping going and playing, at the end, the Carabao Cup final, the Europa League final, and feeling an important player in the squad. That's how I felt before, and how I felt with him.

“Probably the easiest decision would have been leaving. I'm not like that at all. I believed in myself and probably that's being strong, I don't know. But that's the way I am and I wanted to be at the time. After many months and being second in the league, and winning some trophies also, with the Community Shield also.

“It's frustrating when you read [something], or when my grandad calls me. 'I've heard this, I've heard that you're going to give your no.8 to someone else and you have agreed with the manager that you will play less.’ I said, 'How could I have agreed that? Don't believe that!' But he calls me, and that's the difficult thing: to keep your family and your friends calm! ‘If something is going to happen, I will call you first, don't worry!’ But it's very difficult when he lives in Spain and watches TV. But it's frustrating because you cannot stop everything that is being written. You can't every single day put a tweet [out] saying: 'This is fake, this is not true.’ I prefer to stay away and when it's needed – because it's something really serious – then you really say it.

WHAT WILL I DO WHEN I RETIRE?

In the future, will Juan go into coaching or does he have enough to keep him busy already with his Common Goal project? “Have I taken my badges?” he said. “No, not yet. I definitely want to be involved in Common Goal, even after playing, because I think that's something that will last forever. Coaching, I don't know. I think it's a very demanding job. Your life depends on a result. If you win, you're happy; if you don't win, you're not happy. So I have to think about it.

“If you ask me one day, I will tell you: 'No, nothing with football. I want to live life and travel.' But, after some time, I think you feel the need of coming back to what you know best, which in my case is football, because I've been playing since I was a kid. So probably something in football. I don't know if it's coaching. I don't know if it's another position within the football world. But I love football. I love watching football. I love watching players. I love playing football. So probably something with football, yes. But what, I don't know.”

Listen to the rest of the interview, as well as previous UTD Podcast episodes, via the Manchester United website, App and all your favourite podcast platforms.

Download the full Juan Mata episode on Deezer.

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