Juan Mata and James Garner.

Mata backing Garner to be a big hit

Monday 23 November 2020 09:00

Juan Mata is convinced young Manchester United prospect James Garner can become a top-class midfielder.

The Academy product is spending the season with Watford and furthering his education in the Championship. A tremendous work-ethic and desire to learn will stand the 19-year-old in good stead and Mata says he provided regular support for his colleague at the Aon Training Complex.

In a recent interview with the Hornets' official website, Garner was asked who was the best footballer he'd played alongside, and replied: "I’ve played with some top, top players. I have to say Juan Mata is class.

“Everything about him – his touch, his pass, how he speaks to you on and off the pitch – he’s just a real nice guy.”

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We mentioned this to Juan when we caught up with him for the feature interview in United Review, the official matchday programme, for Tuesday night's Champions League clash with Istanbul Basaksehir.

"He is a good friend, that’s why he speaks so well of me!" smiled Mata. "I always thought he is one of the players who, if he keeps going and keeps improving, in the way he was doing in the Academy, he can be a very, very good midfielder.

“I really like him; the way he plays on the ball, his cleverness, his way of looking forward, looking for a pass and also his attitude off the ball. So, whenever he was here, I always tried to encourage him and said what I believed he could be as a player.

“I always tried to motivate him and give him confidence as I think, when you’re that age, you need confidence and trust - not only from the manager but also from your team-mates.

"I wish him all the best at Watford and I am sure he will do well," added Mata. “He’s a great guy and a very good player, as I’ve said before, because he keeps improving every day."

Garner was rested for the Hornets' 1-1 draw with QPR, remaining on the bench. As he has been regularly involved this term, he will hope to feature in Wednesday's trip to Bristol City as the Hertfordshire club aim to continue a promotion push.

Norwich City are the new leaders of the Championship but Watford are only two points behind in fifth, with midweek rivals Bristol City sitting in third.

James Garner is looking to impress during his loan at Watford.

We asked Juan whether working with young players could be something to consider in the future, on the coaching pitch, but he remains fully focused on the job in hand, earning points for United, at the moment.

"I don’t know, to be honest," he replied. "My mind is completely focused on what I can do on the pitch, to be fair.

“Of course, whenever new players come in to the club, or young players come up from the Academy, I try to help them. I know how difficult it can be to arrive into a professional football environment, so I try to help that way. Of course, my main focus is to keep enjoying my football and keep playing a lot because I feel I can give more things to the team."

Read the full interview with Juan Mata in Tuesday's edition of United Review, the official matchday programme.