The Spaniard’s lack of speed and aggression led to Mourinho offloading him to Man United in January 2014 whilst at Chelsea, and it was thought that, upon the 53-year-old’s arrival at Old Trafford, Mata’s days in a red shirt were numbered.
However, much to the surprise of all, Mata has evolved into a fundamental component of Mourinho’s system at United.
Speaking to Cope, Mata reflected on the frustration that stemmed from reading false reports about his apparently fractious relationship with the Special One.
My relationship with Mourinho has never been bad,” he said.
“Many lies were told about me and Mourinho when he arrived at the club this summer and it bothered me that every day I had to read and listen to rumours that weren’t true – with him I’m fine.
“You read a lot of comments on facebook and twitter but they just make you laugh.
“I really want to lift titles at Manchester United, the Premier League is a trophy I have never won but I believe we can do it with this group.
“It was disappointing not to go to the European Championships this summer but I’m happy to be back involved and Lopetegui is a good manager.”
The styles of Mata and Mourinho were, it seemed, too incompatible in order to successfully germinate at United. Mata’s approach has always placed emphasis on skill and patience, whilst Mourinho’s strategy revolves around quick, aggressive football, thrusting forward with energy and power. How, then, could the pair realistically work together?
As it turns out, Mata has slotted in perfectly under Mourinho, providing a welcome source of precision going forward. He is, above anything, a wonderfully intelligent player, always seeing more options in attack than most.
United fans, initially prepared to wave their goodbyes to the 28-year-old, can now look forward to seeing the clever Spaniard continue to quietly area havoc under the 53-year-old’s tutelage.