Mata on Premier League icons, Herrera & haggis!
Juan Mata maintains his honest and open approach in the second part of his epic interview with the fans, answering questions that were submitted by supporters from all around the world.
Here, in another instalment, our decorated magician dives straight into a massive question about the greatest player in Premier League history, before naming his best friend at United and explaining whether he misses compatriot Ander Herrera, who left the club last summer.
There’s even a leftfield enquiry about Scottish delicacies Irn Bru and haggis! So what are you waiting for? Check it out…
United Hangout: 26 fan questions with Juan MataVideo
“The best Premier League player… I mean, I used to love to play with, and against, Eden Hazard. For me, for many years, he was the best in the league. He could win games by himself. I used to train with him and I know how good he can be. He has been very unlucky in his time with Real Madrid with some injuries, but I’m sure he’ll show his real level when he’s fit to do that and he’s not injured. Other than him, we’ve had many players. You can speak about the history of the Premier League and you can maybe put some of my ex-team-mates like Wayne Rooney - he has to be up there. Ryan Giggs has to be up there, and Paul Scholes. My ex-team-mates from Chelsea: [Frank] Lampard, [John] Terry, [Didier] Drogba. It’s very difficult to pick one.”
This one is from Andre Peters in South Africa, who asks: how do you deal with being left out of the team, especially when you’re in good form?
“It’s not easy. It’s not easy for the manager to make that decision, but it’s also not easy for the player. There’s a real happy feeling when you play a lot and you feel important in a team. I think it helps you to perform better. When you are left out of the team, you face two challenges: to cope with the situation and not give up, and be ready to play whenever. The second one is to not only play, but to reach the top level. When you feel you are not the first choice, it’s not always easy to do that. I think you have to overcome both and show that it doesn’t matter what the manager decides. You can only control your performance, your attitude and your behaviour. If you do that, then you have the chance you will do better and then, the manager has to put you in the team because you are doing good.”
“I get repetitive and I’m sure they get bored with my answers. I hope not! It has to be the bicycle-kick at Anfield. Not long ago, it was five years to the day. This is still very present in my life, but I would say it’s even more present in fans’ lives. Every time they speak to me, send me a message on social media, or they’re at the training ground and Old Trafford, they always remember that goal. So it has to be that one. Also, the goal in the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace - we were losing and I scored and then Jesse [Lingard] scored, so we won. But if I have to pick one, it has to be at Anfield.”
I’m not sure if this will be the same answer, but this question from Erolind, from Kosovo: what’s your best moment in a United shirt?
“My debut. It’s a moment I will always cherish. With Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] as the Cardiff manager. Also the Europa League we won in Sweden. It was a very special trophy for us. It was the terrorist attack in Manchester a few hours before, so it was very special for us to win that trophy for the city. The game at Anfield, the FA Cup final, the Community Shield. There are many moments and, hopefully, many more to come.”
This one from Sarah Langley: what is the biggest team-mate prank you have witnessed in your time with Manchester United?
“The biggest prank? I have to think about this!”
Sorry, it's a tough one…
“There are pranks of all sorts. For example, we park our cars just in front of the entrance to the dressing room and sometimes when someone leaves the car open, they tend to open the car and bring everything that's in it outside and throw water bottles, or balls, or pillows that people sometimes have in the car. Or clothes or something like that and leave the doors open and everything like that. That’s not very hurtful, right? Sometimes some people get thrown into the ice-cold bath and there's nothing they can do about it. Between two and three other players, we throw him into the ice-cold bath for something he's done or said or if he's lost a game in training. So yeah, small things. I’m trying to remember one big one but it must have been when Rio was still here because he was a big joker. Zlatan might have done something also, I’ll have to have a think more about that.”
Linda from the UK says: Who's your best friend at United?
“My best friend at United is David. David De Gea and that’s also an obvious one. We were friends before we were playing together in the club. Ander [Herrera] was a very big friend, and still is, but now from afar. But, to be honest with the people that we have been playing with for more years, like Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, now that he is on loan but [he’s a] very, very nice guy. With the kit men, they have been there forever, with the chef, with Mike, with the physios and the doctor. It’s not only between us players but between the people that are with us on a daily basis. They are great people and they are very important for the success of the team. I'm very happy with the people I have met in United, because you really create friendships, rather than only team-mates.”
You mentioned Ander and Israel in Ethiopia has asked, can I asked you one question: do you miss playing with Ander Herrera?
“Yeah, yeah I do. I do miss him on the pitch but also in the dressing room and outside. We were living in the same area. We were seeing each other after training for lunch, dinner, to watch football together, so of course I miss him. He's a very good friend. I'm still in touch with him very often. He's very happy in Paris. When you understand football in the same way, I think it's enjoyable to play with someone like him or with someone like Bruno [Fernandes] now. You always miss them when you don't play with people like this.”
“I am, I am. It's one of the things I’m learning in quarantine. I’m watching movie series, reading and organising the house. I think everyone is doing what we never thought we had time to do. OK, I’m going to organise these boxes or these drawers or whatever. So I’m doing that and I’m cooking with my girlfriend. We are cooking quite often. I am learning and I am enjoying it. I think it can be quite relaxing and therapeutic if you're not in a rush. So I’m cooking, yeah.”
And talking about the current situation, Maureen asks how are your family doing both in the UK and back in Spain at the moment, in this difficult time…
“They are good, thank you. Thank you for asking. Of course in Spain the situation is quite difficult at the moment. Every single day, it seems to be even worse. Hopefully, we can reach the highest point and, from then, build on. My family is fine, my friends are fine. That's lucky, that's a privilege also and myself here in the UK, we are OK in our home in Manchester, so thank you for asking and I hope everyone stays safe, takes care of each other and especially the elderly. it's important right now.”
This one is from George in the UK. Who was your inspiration growing up?
“My dad used to be a professional football player so, while I have memory, I was watching his training, his games, trying to learn from him. So he was a big inspiration. My grandad, my mother's dad, he was a great inspiration - not only for me but for my whole family. He didn’t play football professionally, he told me was a good striker many years ago and he scored many goals. I don’t know if that was true or not but thanks to my career, my games, the teams I have played with, I felt that he was happy, he was proud of his grandson. That's one of the most positive things about my career, about being a football player: to make my family and friends happy, rather than myself. He was definitely an inspiration, with my dad, my mum and my sister.”
Last couple now, Juan. Richard Fenton says as a very experienced player, what advice would you give an 18-year-old Mata if you were part of this exciting, emerging side that Ole is putting together?
“What I would say to myself and what I try to say to the players that are in that situation now is first of all they don’t have to rush things. They have to believe in the process, they have to believe in their development. And secondly, they have to believe in themselves at any time. They will face challenges like I said before, they will face moments that they can be in the team, the squad and they are now. They have to conduct that frustration to make them consistent in their minds and their body to make them cope with the demands of being a professional football player. I will tell myself to be professional, don’t forget all the things I've been doing in my Academy times that brought me there and now that I’m there, I shouldn't change. I should keep doing the same things, because they’re the one that have been successful and helpful for myself. I will tell myself to enjoy on the pitch and try to just play like I have been playing all the time. Which is not thinking too much but playing football, expressing yourself and I’m sure that’s the best way to play at your best level. After that, of course, it depends on the manager and the team but I hope they will have done their part.”
“Key. They were key. I think, for every player, it is very important, not only the family but the people that are around you, advising you or telling you the truth. There are so many people that you have around that sometimes wouldn’t tell you the truth because they want to annoy you or they want to only tell you the things you want to hear. Especially when things are going well in your career. I think it’s very important to be surrounded by someone who tells you the truth, tells you their opinion and cares about you, not only because of the player you are but because of the person that you are and because of who you are as a family member and as a friend. They have been very important in my career and, without them and without my group of friends and my girlfriend, I wouldn’t be in the situation I am.”
Krista from Finland - have you ever been to Finland?
“Never, I have never been to Finland. I would love to go, but I’ve never been, no.”
We started by asking you about food and we're ending with one. When you were in Glasgow for the 2012 Olympics did you try Irn Bru and haggis?
“I don't remember trying it, no.”
I think you would...
“Yeah, if I had, I would remember...”
Yeah, I think you would remember.
“I don't remember, I’m sorry so I will have to try it now!”
We'll have to say you haven't, but I don't think you want those on the menu! Well, look you've answered every question, Juan, and we really appreciate your time. Thank you so much and see you soon.
“No problem. It's good to see you all and stay safe. Take care.”