As reports suggests, Juan Mata is said to have reached an agreement with new Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho with regards to his playing time. This is welcome news to the Man United dressing room as well as to their supporters. Regardless of his level of talent or consistency, keeping Mata in the team is Mourinho’s way of ensuring that his players understand he is willing to work with them. While it’s obvious that there are more adept players deserving of a spot in the starting line-up, Mata’s stay is a means of establishing respect as opposed to personal reasons.
Last season under Louis Van Gaal, Mata played in all of United’s league games (starting in 34 of 38). This season, despite having started in all three matchdays so far, he has always been substituted off for both tactical and attacking reasons. While Mourinho seems to be easing Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the physicality and speed of the Premier League, it is inevitable that when he’s ready, his playing time and starting position will be at Mata’s expense. Mikhi’s influence on the latter part of United’s 1-0 win against Hull City proved his superior talents.
While it may seem harsh that a player who has been honest, respected, and relentless will be pushed away towards irrelevancy, that’s just the nature of professional sports. If you’re not good enough you won’t make it; and if you are, but someone better comes along, you will eventually lose out.
Mourinho’s relationship with Juan Mata has been in the public limelight ever since he earned Chelsea’s Player of the Year Award in 2013 but was sold in the same summer transfer window thereafter. Hence, Mata’s (more subtle) exile this time round comes to no surprise for footy fans as this is a classic case of Mourinho’s willingness to win. Mourinho just wants to win. So Juan, it’s tough and unfair but it’s nothing personal. And he probably wouldn’t mind if he ends up with a Premier League medal come season’s end.