On Sunday, Manchester United were victorious against Bournemouth in the club’s opening game of the Premier League season. United came back to Old Trafford with all three points after their emphatic 3-1 victory thanks to goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, and Zlatan Ibrahimović. One of the goalscorers, Juan Mata has continuously been linked with an Old Trafford exit since Jose Mourinho arrived at United, due to Mourinho having sold Mata during their previous stint together at Chelsea back in the 2013/14 season. Mata was sold to United for £37.1 million, as Mourinho preferred Oscar to the Spaniard despite the fact he had been Chelsea’s player of the year in the two seasons prior to ‘The Special One’s’ arrival.
It looked likely that Mata would be sold by Mourinho yet again after he was subbed on and off again in the Community Shield against Leicester. Many saw this as a show of disrespect towards United’s number eight, however, all of the journalists who predicted that would be that last time that Mata would be seen in a red shirt were thrown a swerve ball when Mourinho included him in his first Premier League starting XI. Mata repaid the faith placed in him by Mourinho by scoring the first goal of the Mourinho era at United, as a result Mourinho heaped praise on Mata:
“It was an important goal, a clever goal, a goal by somebody with a natural instinct to play football, I know him very well because I worked with him for six months at a previous club. I know exactly what he can give and what he cannot give, so when the game is the perfect game to give what he can, it is perfect and today it was about this. I’m really happy with him, but I’m really happy with the whole team, even with the ones that came on later because they gave a contribution, and even with the ones on the bench. I could feel they were with us.”
It is not impossible to envisage Mourinho selling Mata further down the line, as it is likely that his opinions on the player will have changed much, but if Mata continues to perform for The Red Devils it would be hard to justify the sale of Mata. He has now scored against Bournemouth and Galatasaray, as well as providing assists in the game against Borussia Dortmund and Wigan Athletic in pre-season. The Manager was also full of admiration for the Reds who weren’t on the pitch, including the traveling away fans:
“We are building something strong and to build something strong, it’s not just the people on the pitch, it’s the people on the bench, the ones not selected and fundamentally it’s the Red family. We could feel this today with the few thousand [supporters] and I can imagine this on Friday at Old Trafford, I think they can play their game.”
Mourinho seems to be looking forward to making his first Old Trafford walk out as the manager of the home team in a competitive match. He was impressed with a few thousand traveling away fans, so no doubt he will be blown away when 70,000 fans are cheering on his team when United take on Southampton on Friday night. Old Trafford will be bouncing as always but Mourinho can expect to find the fans in a jovial mood, as excitement will build through the red half of Manchester in anticipation to see the most expensive footballer ever make his 2nd debut in Manchester United colours.