Juan Mata must have been a little concerned when Jose Mourinho was appointed Manchester United manager.
The Portuguese sold Mata in 2014 - despite the midfielder being Chelsea’s reigning Player of the Year - as he wasn’t satisfied with the Spaniard’s work ethic.
And, after failing to truly shine at Old Trafford - in part due to Louis van Gaal’s mismanagement of the player - it was widely thought that Mourinho would ship Mata once again.
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However, that won’t be the case. Not immediately, anyway.
The Mirror are reporting that Mourinho has assured every one of his players that they will be afforded an opportunity to impress.
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The former Real Madrid boss has sent a text message to United’s squad, telling them that judgements will be made only after Mourinho has seen them in action.
The 53-year-old is willing to see if Mata has learned from his Chelsea departure. If so, he could well be United’s chief playmaker next season.
It means United’s pre-season tour of China is vital for the likes of Mata, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marouane Fellaini, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay, all of whom are reportedly in danger of being sold by the new manager.
As well as impressing on the field, Mata might have to re-build his relationship with Mourinho. Their fall-out began in September 2013, when the then-Chelsea boss made it quite clear that Oscar was his preferred No. 10.
"It is one thing to play with Ramires and Oscar closing down opponents on each side, and Mata as a No. 10 behind a striker with his clever assists, clever passes and fantastic actions because he has great talent,” Mourinho said, per the Telegraph.
“But it is another thing to adapt to the way we want to play. In this moment, Oscar is my No. 10 and, if anyone tells me Oscar has not been Chelsea's best player this season, I'd have to disagree. I have to prove to the fans that I am good. Now [Mata] must do the same."
Mata hit back
The Spaniard, who missed out on La Roja’s squad for Euro 2016, hit back at those comments last year.
In an interview with The Times - per the Telegraph - he said: “If a luxury player is a player who scores and assists and has good stats, then I'm happy to be a luxury player.
"I want luxury players in my team. I like creative players and players who do different things. It's easy to say certain players are luxuries, especially when you've lost a game.
"When you lose a certain kind of player - the creative players - always get the blame."
Mourinho is probably the first person who wants it to work between himself and Mata. It’ll certainly save him from splashing the cash on a replacement.
Should Mourinho persist with Mata, or sign another No. 10? Let us know in the comments section below!
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