United Hangout: 26 fan questions with Juan Mata
Find a quiet spot and spend half an hour with the nicest man in football, Juan Mata, as he answers your questions...
SG: Good. Well let’s get into these questions, because honestly they’re from all over the world. We’ll crack on with these. First of all, this one from Hitesh who is from the States who says: “What’s the first name that comes to your mind with whom you’d dine with at a restaurant when this pandemic is finally over?” JM: The first name that I will have dinner at my restaurant when this is all over? SG: Absolutely. JM: My parents, my sister and my girlfriend. SG: You’ve been very well trained. That’s a good answer. JM: That’s more than one though, but it’s what I feel. SG: That’ll do. It’s a good answer. On a similar food note, this one from Graham who is here in the UK says: “Have you ever thought of putting some Manchester cuisine in your restaurant? Let’s say black pudding and potatas bravas.” JM: It’s a good consideration. We will have it on the list. I have to speak with the chef, he is the boss, but I’m sure he will like to play with it, so yeah. If we put it in the restaurant will you come? SG: Oh I will be there, of course. I will be there. This one is from Tristan, who is here in the UK as well. “Who is the best young player who you’ve seen come from the youth ranks?” I’m assuming he’s talking about United here. The best young who you’ve seen come from the youth ranks. JM: Obviously the first one who comes to my mind is Marcus, Marcus Rashford. Everyone knows that he is a special player and I have to admit that in the first training that he did with us in the first team, it Louis van Gaal that was our manager, and after the training we did a little game and he was playing on the right side, and after everything finished Ander Herrera came to me and said, ‘do you see this player? How good he is? He will be a player for us.’ He realised straight away. After one training session, Ander knew that this guy was something special and obviously of course after that he was very determined since the first moment he played with us, scoring very quick, many goals and of course for his country also, so I think he is probably the most special player that has come through my time here through the Academy. SG: Good answer. This one from Frank who is from the States, who says: “Do you still get nervous or chills before coming out of the tunnel before a match?” JM: Yeah, I do. I speak about it in my book, because it doesn’t matter how many games you have played, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how experienced you can be, I think you always feel that tension, that nerves in the tunnel. They disappear as soon as you step on the pitch and you start the game, but before the game is the worst moment in terms of how to handle these nerves and excitement and put them altogether onto the pitch, but I still feel it definitely, yeah. SG: This one from Mari Carmen who is in Spain who says: “What is the best moment in your football career, so we’re talking about not just United, the best moment in your football career and the worst and why?” JM: The best one has to be the World Cup that we won in 2010 with Spain. That final when Andrés Iniesta scored the goal we were all checking the time, checking the referee, checking whether he was offside or not and then when the referee blew at the end of the game it was an explosion of happiness and energy and we had made history then, because Spain didn’t win a World Cup before that time so I think that is what every player dreams about, winning a World Cup for the first time with your country and so that was the highest probably. Of course the Champions League, the Europa League and I have been lucky enough, but the World Cup stands out. And then the worst was probably when I was at Chelsea I was voted for two years Player of the Year, I was playing regularly and I was playing very good and enjoying my football and then the situation changed. I stopped playing as much, my confidence was not as high and that was a challenge in my career that I had to overcome, but I think that it’s normal. I don’t know any player that has a career that is going always good and always right. There are injuries; there are managers that don’t play football that is perfect for your qualities, there’s moments in a club that are not going very well, so you have to adapt to these challenges and overcome them and then you will be an even better player. SG: You mentioned Chelsea there and here is a cheeky one from Daisy from the States. “Do you miss playing for Chelsea (please say no)?” JM: You know I am very happy where I am. I am very, very happy to be playing for Manchester United, to be able to play for this incredible club, playing at Old Trafford every two weeks. I am very grateful for my time at Chelsea. They were two-and-a-half years and they were personally very, very good for me in terms of my development as a player, in terms of my development as a person. It was when I arrived in England and I needed to learn the language, another country, another culture and in terms of trophies also, but the reality is now that I am at Manchester United and I couldn’t be happier. SG: This is from Darrell who is in Australia, who says: “Would you like to see Premier League games played for points in international countries such as Australia?” JM: I think this is something that might happen eventually. We have seen it in different sports, we have seen it with some sports played abroad and they are still in competitions. I don’t know if it will happen or not but because of the way football seems to be going it might happen sooner rather than later. It will be great for our fans around the world, to be honest. It will be great to see us play live, playing for competitive points. It will be difficult to organise to be honest, and also a little bit unfair for the people that live in the UK that go to every single game. So there is a little bit of a discussion there to speak deeper about it, but I think that it will happen in football. It might happen, yeah. SG: This one is from South Africa, from Cheslyn. “Bruno calls you the little magician, do you have a nickname for him?” JM: I just chant his song, which is ‘Bruno, Bruno’ every morning when I see him, so I think he’s happy with my morning welcome. He is a great guy, we have become very close and obviously a great player. SG: It’s amazing the impact, isn’t it? It must be quite hard to come to a new country and a new club, but the impact has been amazing hasn’t it? JM: Yeah, he’s done great. SG: This is from Jo in the UK. “What feeling do you get when you put on a United shirt?” JM: First I try to remind myself every time how privileged I am, because when you get into a routine and you’ve been playing for six, seven years for Manchester United you can lose perception of the size of the club and where you are because it becomes routine. It is not at all. Every time you put a Manchester United shirt on, in training or especially in games, it is a feeling of pride, it is a feeling of luck and it is a privilege to be honest to be representing this club in better or worse games, in better or worse moments, but the actual fact of being a player at this club is something that is incredible. Of course it’s not enough to only put on the shirt. Of course you have to play good and you have to win trophies, and that is my aim and that is our aim, but the feeling I think that stands out is pride. SG: This one is from Gary Jenkins in France, who asks: would you like to go into coaching or management when you retire? JM: It’s a difficult question. Somedays, yes; somedays, no. Somedays, yes because I love football - you can train to play in a certain way, you can train to develop players and make them reach their highest level. I like many parts of the game and what happens on the pitch, but on the other side, your life is constantly questioned and the demands are so high because it all depends on whether the ball goes into the goal and you can win, or not. So your ability is judged by results. If you’re a player, you can change the result because you’re in the game and you can do better or worse, but if you’re a manager from the bench, you can pick the team and have an idea but you cannot score the goal. That’s not fair for them sometimes. It’s a very demanding job in terms of the hours you have to put in and the demands and the pressure. But, on the other side, it’s fantastic to see a team play the way you want and the players understand your ideas. So I don’t know, I need to think more about what I want to do after football, but what I want now is to play for many years still because I’m still young. Maybe I’ll apply to work at MUTV! SG: You’re welcome, we accept anybody! Eric Murphy in Ireland asked: do you see yourself finishing your career at United, or would you eventually like to go back to Spain? JM: At the moment I see myself here and playing for as long as I can at the club. As you know, after that, there are players who go to different countries and try a different league or culture in life. I don’t know if I’m going to do that because it depends on the circumstances. If you speak to Michael Carrick maybe he had a different plan but then from one day to another he became an assistant manager. So you never know and I prefer to focus on the present or the short-term goals. SG: On that point, Fran Fuentes in Spain asked: would you fancy coming back to my club, Real Oviedo? JM: That’s my home team, that’s the team that I support in Spain. I know a lot of people there in the club and I am fan myself. At some point it would be nice because there a quote a few players who have come through the youth ranks at Oviedo, like: Santi Cazorla, Michu - who used to play for Swansea, Adrian Lopez - who used to play at Atletico Madrid, and myself. So it would nice if we could all meet again at Real Oviedo and try and bring the team to the first division because right now they are in the second division. Hopefully they can be in the first division soon, that would be nice. SG: This is a tricky one from Dean Herrington in the UK: who is the greatest player in the Premier League? JM: 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. SG: This one form 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? JM: It’s not easy. It’s not easy for the manger 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. SG: Lots of people have asked a question like this, but Margret Bosworth from the UK has asked: what’s your favourite goal for United, and why? JM: 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. SG: 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? JM: 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 final. There are many moments and, hopefully, many more to come. SG: This one from Sarah Langley: what is the biggest team-mate prank you have witnessed in your time with Manchester United? JM: The biggest prank? I have to think about this! SG: Sorry, it's a tough one… JM: 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. SG: Linda from the UK says: Who's your best friend at United ? JM: 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 kitmen, 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 improtant 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. SG: You mentioned Ander and Israel in Ethiopia has asked, can I asked you one question: do you miss playing with Ander Herrera? JM: 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. SG: And Saeed from Spain: Are you cooking your food in quarantine? JM: 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. SG: 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… JM: 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. SG: This one is from George in the UK. Who was your inspiration growing up? JM: 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. SG: 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? JM: 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. SG: This one’s from Colin in the US. He says: how has your family played a role in your success and your love of the game? JM: Key. They were key. I think for every player it is very important, not only the family but the people that is around you, advising you or telling you the truth. There's 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. SG: Krista from Finland - Have you ever been to Finland? JM: Never, I have never been to Finland. I would love to go, but I’ve never been, no. SG: 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? JM: I don't remember trying it, no. SG: I think you would... JM: Yeah, if I had I would remember... SG: Yeah, I think you would remember. JM: I don't remember, I’m sorry so I will have to try it now! SG: 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 for your time and see you soon. JM: No problem. It's good to see you all and stay safe. Take care.