There was a time not long ago when Juan Mata was looking like a player on the verge of leaving Manchester United.
The Spaniard’s contract was set to expire during the summer but a decision was finally made to offer the playmaker a new deal. At 31, it’s a common view among fans Mata’s best days are behind him but with the lack of depth in attack this season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be thinking he made the right decision to keep him.
It was in January 2014 that Mata become a United player for a then club record £37m deal from Chelsea, where he lifted the Champions League, arriving by helicopter as David Moyes’ biggest signing. He is the longest-serving signing of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and has produced some great moments over the years.
It clear from his Telegraph interview that Mata is proud to part of Manchester United’s history.
“Playing for this club, and I really mean this, is something very special in a player’s career,” Mata said. “That’s a reality. Not many players are able to say ‘I played for Manchester United and I was there for six, seven, eight years’. That’s a privilege. And so being here, seeing how many millions of fans they have, makes you realise also that you are on the biggest stage that you can be.
“When I was a kid in Spain I only ever wanted to be a professional football player. My dad was but he didn’t play in the first division and my only aim was to do that, to make my family proud. And then that came and many things after that and now I am at a club where David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Eric Cantona used to play and sometimes it feels surreal.”
One of the nice guys, Juan Mata launched Common Goal in 2017. A set-up which asks members to pledge 1% of their income to a central fund that is then channelled towards varies charitable causes. View all of the members here.
“It says how involved they are. They are always fighting in football,” he added. “It explains why they understand from the first moment a movement like this one which is about equality also. It shows the commitment because even though they don’t have the same salaries they still contribute with one per cent of their wages. They set an example to everyone.”