Since Jose Mourinho’s appointment, people have, perhaps prematurely, been discussing the departure of Juan Mata considering the diminutive Spaniard left shortly after Mourinho joined Chelsea. This discussion has put a somber tone in a happy time at Old Trafford, and, just as many United fans are beginning to think Mata is on his way out, The Sun has reported that Mata has been offered a lifeline at United by Mourinho, and, if he is willing to play only one-third of United’s matches, he will have a place in United’s squad.
The report from Martin Lipton goes on to explain that Mata believes that he can win his place in United’s starting team. Hypothetically, if the initial report was true, this would mean that either Mourinho’s report didn’t mean anything or that Mata didn’t listen to him. Neither of those seems likely, which is the first of two examples of Lipton’s contradictions throughout the report.
The rest of Lipton’s report was a long set of generic facts about Mata, including the fact that he joined United for £37.1 million in 2014 after leaving Mourinho’s Chelsea, which is the second example of trademarked contradiction. The report insinuates that Mourinho froze Mata out of the Chelsea setup, which is the base at which all problems in this situation are identified.
“The Portuguese boss made the playmaker and fan favourite into an outcast when he returned to Chelsea before selling him to United for £37.1million in 2014.”
This is incorrect in so many ways, all of which can be understood in less than five minutes. Firstly, Mourinho never froze Mata out at Chelsea, he simply didn’t prefer to start the Spaniard. Mata was always at least on the substitutes’ bench as long as he was fit. Mourinho simply preferred Mata’s colleague, Oscar, who he felt suited the system better because he was a harder worker off the ball and in defensive areas. Mata left Chelsea because he wanted to further his career when he was 25 and arguably the best attacking midfielder on the planet in the previous season. He needed playing time to do so. There was no freezing out, there was no isolation, and there were no outcasts.
In fact, Mourinho waited until United played all their fixtures against Chelsea that season before allowing Mata to join, which suggests that Mourinho believed he could be a potent attacking threat. There is more to suggest that Mourinho wanted Mata as a part of his Chelsea side than there is to suggest he didn’t. With this report, Lipton has exemplified another example of how the media has manipulated the opinions of the vast majority of football fans.
Despite all of that, Mata could seek a move away from United. The signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the irritatingly senseless persistence with Wayne Rooney in attacking midfield makes Mata seem an outsider at United. The question has to do with whether Mata, a player who clearly isn’t quite as good as he was when he joined United, is willing to stay and play a bit-part role in United’s attack. If he is, he would be great to keep on the books. His presence on and off the pitch is undoubted and he could be the man to bring the best out of United’s other attacking jewels.
In addition, while the reports from Lipton and The Sun are easier to disprove than prove, the situation does make sense. Mata would likely play only one in three games under Mourinho, and the question remains as to whether he will accept that or leave the club. One-third of United’s games equates to around 20 starts and substitute appearances, and if Mata was getting 30 games the difference would be massive. The likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Jesse Lingard, and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson will likely start a third of United’s games, and Mata, a world class player in the right system, should not be lowered to the standards of teenagers and those who behave like teenagers.
To conclude, the only thing to take from Lipton’s report is what can be associated with it. Mata may choose to leave Manchester United, which is a tough situation, and, much like at Chelsea, the majority of supporters are against the idea of him leaving. However, at the end of the day, inference tells us that Mata’s decision won’t mean much to United’s plans this season, and Mourinho has already planned around Mata’s decision.