Juan Mata has given his thoughts on Manchester United’s opening season under Jose Mourinho, expressing his delight at the silverware picked up under the Portuguese whilst encouraging more consistency in the Premier League next season.
Man United finished the 2016/17 campaign with two major trophies – something they haven’t done since 2009 – by adding the Europa League to the League Cup trophy they picked up in February.
Mourinho’s men continually struggled in the Premier League, however, and more or less completely abandoned domestic affairs in preparation for the Europa League final, finishing in sixth spot as a result.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, noted that, amid the celebrations of European glory, he and his teammates are acutely aware of the improvements that need to made in the Premier League next season.
“It was nice to share with all of you in Stockholm a good game and the joy of adding up more silverware to United’s trophy cabinet,” he wrote.
“The road wasn’t neither short nor easy, but we finally got our goal, so the next season we will play the Champions League, which is what this club deserves and where we all want to be.
“Ajax was a tough opponent (it’s very brave to give so much confidence to so many young players in a team, so credit to them for that), however, I think we deserved to win because ever since the first minute of the final we had a very clear idea of what we wanted and we performed as an experienced, well-prepared team.
“Obviously the atmosphere was very special due to the terrible attacks in Manchester just two days before the final, but that circumstance, instead of making us weak, gave us more courage to try to win and offer the title to the city, something to celebrate and to cheer up many people, at least for a few hours.
“I’ll never forget the reactions that we’ve seen all these days everywhere in the city (union, solidarity, respect, and many more values that make Manchester such a special place), and the ability of football to bring people together, to help, to contribute, beyond rivalries and tensions.
“When I look back, I can see many good moments that we have lived together. We won the Community Shield right after the pre-season, we lifted the EFL Cup trophy in London, in a very special game for me, and of course the final in Sweden.
“But we are aware of our lack of consistency and effectiveness in the Premier League that prevented us from fighting for the title, which is what Manchester United is supposed to do. Personally, I have played over 40 games once again. It’s true that I was injured for a month and a half, something that had never happened before in my career, but at the end I was able to enjoy again what I like the most and I finished the season happy.
“I want more, of course, but I’m happy and proud of what we have done along the way. I hope that you have the same feeling, and that you are excited and really looking forward to the next season.”
The reasons underpinning United’s Premier League malaise this season were clear: an excruciating, seemingly unsolvable ineptitude in front of goal at home to lesser teams. United recorded a record 15 draws in the league under Mourinho; turning just six of those into wins would have given them 12 more points, moving them up to third spot.
Mourinho, therefore, will need to be ruthless with his players; the fact that only one player claimed over 15 goals suggests that United’s attacking arsenal, whether through heavy spending or fine tuning over the summer, needs to radically improve over the next few months.