Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney stand over a free-kick during Manchester United's game against Wigan Athletic in 2017

Mata: Rooney was so vocal in the dressing room

Saturday 28 September 2019 07:00

Juan Mata is one of the more senior voices in the Manchester United side nowadays, with our young players no doubt looking to the Spaniard to set an example.

When Mata first signed for the Reds, Wayne Rooney – who would later go on to be club captain – would perform a similar role at a time when experienced players such as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were moving on.

In the third of four extracts we’re publishing from Juan’s autobiography 'Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer’, the forward compares Rooney’s captaincy style to some of the other great leaders he’s played with...

“Wazza is the type to get everyone up for it and he would shout loudly in the dressing room before every game, half-time or even after if the performance was not up to standard.

“We could say that his way of leading was more vocal, more extrovert, bringing everyone together and even taking time to sit down with players individually, trying to help, making everyone feel comfortable.

Rooney lifted four trophies as United's club captain, including the FA Cup in 2016.

“If Wazza did his bit to create that kind of atmosphere in his own way, I have to say that I’ve also encountered other players during my career with similar attributes or styles of leadership.

“I’ll give you the names: Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, John Terry. All of them natural-born leaders – vocal, passionate, intense. They had a key presence in the Spanish national team and Chelsea’s dressing room over many years. They were key to our success.”

Although the Spaniard arrived in Manchester after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, he also has a story to exemplify the Scot's unique style of authority...

“The sense of when and how to surprise your players is a great asset to a manager, which reminds me of a story I love about Sir Alex Ferguson, something which happened on United’s training ground when Cristiano Ronaldo was still at the club.

“Sir Alex, while directing a training session with the team, suddenly stopped the exercises and pointed at the sky. The players didn’t understand why. A group of geese were flying in their usual V-formation. “Look,” he suddenly said. “Look carefully, when they change direction, all of them do it, together. Not one of them is left behind”. Players looked confused at each other.

“In football, it’s the same. A team cannot win with one, two or three players going in a different direction. Only with 11 together we can win. Do like the geese.” And they kept training. And they won a lot together.


“To have both abilities, to be a thinker and a doer, like Sir Alex, is incredibly rare.”

“What’s amazing is that the behaviour of the geese was something that Sir Alex had been told about by somebody else before. He had just stored that away in his mind, thinking the time would come when he, too, could use it to the advantage of his team.

“He did it. Geniuses do that. Some geniuses, though, do not know how to communicate their genius to the world and somebody has to tell them.

“To have both abilities, to be a thinker and a doer, like Sir Alex, is incredibly rare.”


Juan Mata is proud to support Common Goal which aims to unite the global football community in tackling the greatest social challenges of our time.

He is giving 99 per cent of his proceeds from this book to this cause. Why 99 per cent? Read the book to find out.

'Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer' is on sale now from the Manchester United club store.