Despite a lot of speculation regarding Juan Mata’s future at Manchester United, it appears that Mourinho has accepted that Juan Mata is important to this United side. At Chelsea, Mata was sold as Mourinho tended to prefer Oscar, Willian, Hazard or Ramires to the Spaniard. However, the £37.1 million price would suggest that he did not doubt the player’s ability.
Many fans felt that Mourinho would get rid of Juan Mata once again. It was unsurprising when he was linked to a move to Goodison Park. Some felt Mata’s time at the club was nearing its end when Mata was substituted off just 25 minutes after being substituted on against Leicester City in the Community Shield victory earlier this month. Mourinho, though, insisted this was not because he disliked the player, but rather than Mata was just not tall enough. At 5ft 7, this could be an understandable decision considering the frequent long throws towards the end of the match that required taller players to head the ball clear as United aimed to maintain their one-goal lead.
More recently, Mourinho defended Mata saying that he was “really happy with him” following his performance against Bournemouth in which he was included in the starting eleven. Mata’s hard work even paid off as he scored the opening goal. It was his first goal for Mourinho in a competitive match as he also netted one goal in the pre-season friendly against Galatasaray. Last season, Juan Mata completed 89% of his passes – marginally more than any other United player. He also created 53 chances, considerably more than any other player. These types of statistics could have been another factor in Mourinho’s decision to keep Mata at the club.
Few people were upset to see Louis van Gaal go, but Daley Blind was one of them. After the news was announced, the Dutch defender said that he had “rated him highly”. Blind was one of the few players to actually understand van Gaal’s philosophy. In his first season, he predominantly played as a midfielder, but later moved into a centre back position – a role he was not unfamiliar with. At first, many people questioned his ability to play as a defender. However, he proved them wrong and now appears to have proven Mourinho wrong too.
There are few players who can read the game better than Daley Blind can; this trait has appeared to compensate for his height as he is just 5ft 11 – smaller than the majority of defenders. It is no surprise that Mourinho had originally appeared to doubt the Dutchman’s ability as a centre back. He certainly isn’t the typical centre back that Mourinho is used to. He is not tall or particularly strong. In fact, Blind is one of the shortest centre backs Mourinho has ever played. However, his ability to read the game and his passing skills have been enough to secure him a place in the starting line-up ahead of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo – at least while Smalling is unavailable.
Daley Blind clearly impressed Mourinho in training and in the pre-season friendlies with his tackling, the ability to read the game well and his impressive ability to create chances from a centre back position. Last season he created more chances than the majority of United players – only Rooney, Mata and Martial created more. He worked well with Eric Bailly too as they gave Bournemouth just three shots on goal.
Sadly, despite Daley Blind and Juan Mata proving their importance to this United team and to Mourinho’s plans, Schweinsteiger and Rojo have failed to do similarly with several reports claiming that Schweinsteiger is no longer training with the team and, despite Rojo’s substitute appearance against Leicester City, it was not good enough for Mourinho to keep him in the team either. Rojo recently declined a move to Shanghai SIPG, so perhaps he intends to continue at United and try to convince Mourinho to give him another chance. Despite being a World Cup and Champions League winner, Schweinsteiger appears to be unable to convince Mourinho that he too can be useful to the squad – the arrival of Paul Pogba won’t help Schweinsteiger make his way back to the starting line-up either.