Juan Mata exudes class, intelligence and panache – and not just with a ball at his feet.
The Reds’ no.8 has asserted himself as one of our key performers during his time at Old Trafford, regularly contributing important goals and assists. That includes a stunning scissor kick at Liverpool in March 2015 and his display at Merseyside was nothing short of mesmeric. Performances like these that elevated Juan to the status of a fans' favourite.
Mata is an influential performer in any of the three main attacking positions across the pitch behind the lead striker – on either flank or in the no.10 role. A world-class creator and consistent goal-getter, he previously proved his class at Valencia and Chelsea.
However, his game is about more than just attacking from deep to score goals. The Spain international has a sweet left foot, wonderful poise and balance, possesses great vision for a killer pass or wicked cross and is a danger from set-pieces. His creativity sets him apart; few players can match his minutes-per-assist ratio in the division.
He was voted Chelsea's Player of the Year in both full campaigns in West London. These individual awards joined FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League winners' medals in his collection.
At international level, Mata's list of honours is even more impressive. He was among Spain's World Cup and European Championship winners, making one substitute appearance in South Africa 2010 before proving even more influential at Euro 2012 by scoring in the final against Italy. He also captained Spain to European Under-21 Championship glory in 2011 and represented his country at the 2012 Olympics.
Following his move to Old Trafford from Stamford Bridge in January 2014 – when the Spaniard travelled to the Aon Training Complex by helicopter – Mata scored a crucial equaliser in United’s dramatic extra-time victory over Crystal Palace in the 2016 FA Cup final. He also started the EFL Cup final success against Southampton and Europa League triumph against Ajax in 2017.
Mata’s eye for a pass and knack of chipping in with key goals continued in 2017/18, his double away to Leicester in December a highlight of his campaign. Those goals capped Juan’s best spell of the season, his displays earning a deserved nomination as the club’s player of the month for December – only the excellence of Lingard denied him.
In February, the hugely popular player was frustrated to be involved in the first Video Assisted Refereeing decision in United’s history. His ‘goal’ in the fourth round FA Cup win at Huddersfield was controversially adjudged offside, despite inconclusive video evidence.
United’s attacking options meant that Mata was part of a regularly rotated forward line-up in the final months of the season, stepping off the bench late on in the FA Cup final.
Mata has always been something of a dead-ball expert, but in 2018/19 he scored two vital free-kicks for the Reds - the first of which kicked started our 3-2 comeback against Newcastle and the second ensured he beat Juventus 2-1 in Turin.
Now one of the senior heads in the United dressing room, the Spaniard serves as a model professional for the younger members of our squad.