Mata ready for his Chelsea reunion
Manchester United's visit to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on Saturday will be a return to old surroundings for Juan Mata, as he comes up against his previous club and former team-mates again.
The Spaniard spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Blues, making over 135 appearances and scoring 33 goals, before signing for the Reds in January 2014.
Speaking to MUTV ahead of Saturday's battle at Stamford Bridge, Mata assessed this weekend's opposition and considered how much of the Chelsea squad has remained unchanged since he left the club four years ago.
“It’s always a special game for me against Chelsea and it will be tough - they are doing good,” Juan said.
“They have a new manager and they play with more or less the same players but in a certain style.
”I know many players and people from the backroom staff there,
“ he added. ”Cesar Azpilicueta is a very good friend from the time I was playing there. David Luiz is still there, Willian’s still there. Eden Hazard, who is a good friend, and Gary Cahill... so there are still some players there I know.
Mata was also asked about the unusual nickname given to Azpilicueta upon his arrival in West London. The defender's tongue-twister of a surname led to fans and team-mates dubbing him 'Dave', taking their cue from Trigger, a hapless character in the TV series Only Fools and Horses, who, incorrectly and inexplicably, always called his friend Rodney Trotter by that name.
“It’s very difficult, even for me as a Spaniard, to say 'Azpilicueta'. So, for English people, I think it’s just easier, shorter and better to call him Dave,” said Juan.
New manager Maurizio Sarri has provided fresh impetus at Chelsea since his appointment in the summer. Our hosts on Saturday currently have the same number of points as leaders Manchester City, only trailing them on goal difference.
“I believe they have a good team, a good squad and they have a squad full of quality players, experienced players,” said Mata.
“They have players like Hazard, Willian, Pedro and Cesc Fabregas. They signed Jorginho who fits perfectly with Sarri’s style, so I’m not surprised with the way they are playing, because I think they have the players to play like that.”
'Chelsea is always a special game for me'Video
Saturday's match against Chelsea is just the start of what could be a defining month in United's season. Before November's international break, the Reds will have two Champions League clashes against Juventus and a trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City as well as hosting Everton and travelling to Bournemouth.
Mata is hoping that the Reds' thrilling second-half performance against Newcastle can set the squad up for what will be the toughest challenge of the season to date.
“As I said it’s going to be difficult. Stamford Bridge is a difficult stadium, but we have to try to keep going with the amazing 20, 25 or even 45 minutes that we did against Newcastle. I think the second half was very, very good and we must try to build from there, try to play our game, try to win and then think about the next fixtures.”