Juan Mata and his blog is just about the most adorable thing any Premier League footballer does these days. That is unless Manchester United lose, then it is quite possibly the greatest source of sorrow.
We loved watching his tour around Manchester, published shortly after he arrived from Chelsea in 2013. We also thought his top five moments in a United shirt was delightfully chirpy, considering he's spent most of that time playing out of position and not winning trophies.
But the diminutive Spaniard is feeling far from chirpy at the moment. The Red Devils lost 1-0 to Southampton at the weekend in what represented their sixth loss in the Premier League this season.
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Manchester United fans were angry following the full-time whistle. Boos rang around Old Trafford and those lucky enough to sit close to the touchline took the opportunity to tell Louis van Gaal what they thought about the performance.
Mata has apologised whole-heartedly to the fans, readily admitting that the performance from both himself and his team-mates failed to meet expectations. However, he also believes they have a chance to get back on track next weekend when they play Derby County in the FA Cup fourth round.
Here is his blog post in full:
Once again I’m writing with a bad taste. After several games without being defeated, we lost 0-1 to Southampton in Old Trafford. And it hurts, it really does. It was the perfect time to get the three points and stretch the good streak in 2016, but we couldn’t make it. It wasn’t a good game from any of the teams, a draw would have been a fair result (although not good enough for us), but a late goal from [Charlie] Austin after a free-kick took the points away from us. It’s another tough moment, for you and for us, but we must get through this. I understand your frustration, because we feel the same way, but we have to carry on.
Football doesn’t stop and now it’s time for the FA Cup. And we want to fight for this trophy for you. We feel bad every time we get a bad result, but it hurts even more for you. We must get better results for you, I hope this beautiful competition will provide them. We play against Derby County, a historical team in England; they got great results especially in the seventies. But as I said, I hope we can make a good game, get through the next round and start another good run of results.
I thank you for your support in the bad times, and I assure you that our only goal is to do things much better to move up the table in the Premier League and try to lift the FA Cup. Thanks to all of you. I’m sure that better moments will come sooner or later, and we will enjoy them much more, aware of how tough it is to get there.
Through the looking glass
While Mata gives little away, his dark mood sums up exactly how the Manchester United family are feeling. The players and fans appear to be losing faith in Louis van Gaal with widespread reports claiming the dressing room is turning against the Dutchman.
A win against Derby will be crucial, but Mata's use of language suggests he is lacking confidence. He talks of his 'hope' that they can get a good result against the Rams and, again, his 'hope' that they can get better results in the cup competition. But hope is usually reserved for the underdogs; expectation is what Mata and his United team-mates should have.
Lose against Derby, and all hope, for some, will certainly be lost.