Juan Mata says it’s been hard to prepare himself to play for Manchester United recently because he doesn’t feature every week.
Still, I’d argue the 32-year-old has played more football this season than most fans would’ve thought after the signing of Donny van de Beek in the summer.
Mata has made seven appearances in all competitions for United this season, with four of those coming in the Premier League, and he’s done okay. Making the line-up will likely depend on the opposition, but it will be interested to see if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finds a place in his side for him tonight.
I understand that — even with the amount of games he has played — it’s difficult to play a bit-part role, but Mata knew this would be the case when he signed his last contract at the club and I don’t recall him getting a lot of game time under Solskjaer last season.
He last featured for the Reds in their 1-0 win over West Brom on November 21, and he was an unused substitute in our last two games against Istanbul Basaksehir and Southampton.
After joining United in 2014, Mata is now seen as one of the veterans in the dressing room. His experience will hopefully rub off on the younger players, who should look up to the Spaniard as a model professional.
He recently spoke to L’Equipe about the difficulty to staying mentally prepared when in and out of the team.
“I try to stay strong in my head, to train as best I can, to be physically and mentally ready every time someone calls me,” Mata said.
“Even if, of course, it’s not always easy to be so when you don’t play every game.”
The reason he was talking to a French media outlet is because United play host to PSG in the UEFA Champions League tonight, needing a point to qualify from their group.
Mata added: “PSG are an excellent team, who recently played in the Champions League final.
“During our match at the Parc des Princes, we had performed well.
“But given the evolution of the group, I am sure that the Partisans will come to Old Trafford to win. We know how dangerous they can be.”