Exclusive Q&A: Mata's advice to United's new boys
After nearly 15 years in professional football, there aren’t many experiences or situations Juan Mata hasn’t faced.
In an interview for Sunday's edition of United Review, Mata also gave his thoughts on how players like Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo can quickly adjust to the club after their January transfers, which is something Juan himself experienced when he joined the Reds in 2014.
As you can read in the exclusive Q&A below, our no.8 was also asked about his recent form and aims for the remainder of this season…
“It’s always nice. They’re always fresh and full of energy and positivity. I remember when I was 18 or 19 and starting at Valencia and it felt that way. You’re there, you’ve got to where you want to be, but you want more. You want to play and you want to show that you’re good enough. We have now many young players, all of them with different qualities and personalities and overall they’re very nice guys and I’m happy to see them develop like they’re doing.”
Are you enjoying playing a role in helping them?
“They know that I am here for them, and I’m here for any of my team-mates. I have been in the same position that they are in now, which is at the front door of their professional careers, so from now it’s very important that they are ready for it and that they stay physically fit and mentally tough because there are some challenges ahead. And I hope they can find the consistency that is needed to be a professional football player. I think they have the qualities and hopefully they will also, during the process, learn the other things too.”
“We welcomed them both. Bruno is a very good player, we all know that, and a very nice guy also. We have been in contact a lot. He speaks Spanish mixed with Portuguese which is not very different. So he’s a good guy and I think he’s settling in very well. He’s found his place in Manchester [to live] and also with the help of Fred, Andreas and Diogo he’s enjoying it. They’ve helped him a lot. Hopefully he can help us in this second part of the season and I’m sure he will because he’s a quality player. Odion has experience of playing in the Premier League and hopefully he will score many goals for us from now until the end of the season, and, as the manager said, he’s a good character as well and he’s got a good personality which has fitted straight into the dressing room. The better he does, then the better for us – and I wish him all the best.”
You arrived at United in a January window, of course, back in 2014 – how hard was it to acclimatise halfway through a season?
“It’s probably not ideal because you don’t have a pre-season tour or the time to really get into the pattern of the team, but it depends. It takes time for a player to settle and we shouldn’t expect any miracles from anyone, but I’m sure that with the right mindset and the right qualities like Bruno and Odion have they will be a big help for us. Sometimes you have seen players arrive in January and they have been a great success for the clubs they’ve signed for, maybe even sometimes better than when players have arrived in the summer. So I don’t think it has a lot of impact in the long term. Maybe in the short term it’s not the easiest but in the long term it’s irrelevant.”
Is there anything that you did to try to speed up the settling-in process?
“You feel the need to try and show as much as you can [on the pitch] as soon as you can, but there is a moment when you have to let your football speak and just flow. That’s what I did when I arrived. The situation wasn’t great and I just tried to be myself and play the football that I was playing before in England and in Spain. Eventually you find yourself, you find your position in the team and your role to play. I think that’s the best way to do it.”
You’ve produced some of your best form of the season in the last month or so. Have you been pleased with how you’ve been playing?
“I’m enjoying my level now, that’s what I like to do, to try to help the team with my football and if I’m enjoying it on the pitch it means my level is good. Hopefully I can keep doing it until the end of the season. Of course, we didn’t have every single result as we wished but I think the performances have been better and personally I’ve been very happy to contribute.”
What would be the ideal ending to the season for you personally and for the team?
“Personally, being fit and ready to play every single game and hopefully playing a lot of games and helping the team with goals and assists and my way of playing. As a team, making the top four would be very good for us and trying to win the Europa League and the FA Cup. So let’s see… we are positive we can go forward in both cups and get closer to the top four in the Premier League and hopefully we can speak in a few weeks and we’ll be in an even better situation than now.”