Juan Mata faces a significant few months of his Manchester United career amid talk that Jose Mourinho will succeed Louis van Gaal as manager.
The Spaniard fell out with Mourinho during the end of his time at Chelsea, despite winning the club’s Player of the Year award in each of the previous two seasons.
Mata’s performances during his time at Stamford Bridge made him a club favourite, but doubts over his work-rate ultimately saw him sold to David Moyes’ ailing United side for £37 million.
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And now that Mourinho is the favourite to replace Van Gaal, Mata must do all he can to show the Portuguese he is worthy of a future at the club.
Mata had helped Chelsea win both the Champions League and Europa League under Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez, yet found starting opportunities slim in his final few months in the capital.
The Spanish international was one of many talented players to leave the Blues, with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku also being allowed to leave for pastures new.
Mata later said that he and Mourinho had stopped speaking, and Moyes broke United’s transfer record - previously held by Dimitar Berbatov - in the hope he would save his job.
But he was shunted out to the wing and struggled to make much of an impact in his debut year, though Van Gaal's arrival at the club saw the Spaniard enjoy a far more fruitful season at Old Trafford.
Despite enjoying some fine moments in a red shirt – a memorable double at Liverpool last season perhaps the best of the lot – Mata has never become the key player many supporters would have hoped for.
The 27-year-old is at long last being played in his preferred no.10 position, having struggled on the wings due to his lack of pace and power.
It now means that he needs to help the club win either the FA Cup or Europa League if they are to stand any real chance of securing Champions League football next year.
Mourinho would most likely be given huge funds to revamp the squad in the summer, and Mata could again be part of the culling if he cannot help Van Gaal deliver the first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement three years ago.
If Mata does leave he is likely to be inundated with offers, and a reunion with Fernando Torres at Atletico Madrid could be his next destination.
Having sold Petr Cech to Arsenal and watched De Bruyne return to England with Manchester City, Mourinho will no doubt have learned his lesson in selling certain players at the wrong time.
Mata is a popular figure at the club yet United cannot afford to prioritise sentiment if they are to ever return to the top.
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