Saturday 3 October 2015

Special Juan: Mata's star shining brightly at Theatre of Dreams

Sporting a beard  and standing at a mere 5ft 7ins, you would imagine Juan Mata would not stand out amongst his team mates when he heads to Manchester's Northern Quarter, the city's home for hirsute hipsters.

The likeable, down to earth Spaniard- with a keen eye for fashion and culture- goes about his day to day life quietly, unmolested by selfie taking hordes.

Yet, when he steps out at Old Trafford, all eyes are on him and rightly so.

Time seems to slow when Mata gets the ball - an outrageous dink here, a flicked pass there - he is the star turn and ultimate fans favourite at the Theatre of Dreams.

Not only is he a magicican of a player, he also comes across as a genuinely lovely guy: friendly, polite and humble, he even ends his blog posts with 'hugs- what a man!!

As another week with another game-changing moment passes, the legion between the gifted 27 year old and his employers grows ever stronger.

What, then, was Jose Mourinho thinking when he called time on his career at Stamford Bridge?

Mata is just what Chelsea need in these turbulent times - calm, measured, understated and consistent - a player who keeps his head down and gets on with his business regardless of the noise.

Mata is also (unusually for the typical footballer stereotype) very intelligent and it did not take long for him to realise he may not feature in Mourinho's plans and following talks with Roman Abramovich in summer 2013, it was agreed he could leave in the next transfer window for a set fee.

Aside from one mini-tantrum upon being substituted, there was little dummy spitting as Mata simply got on with it, no doubt hoping he could change the mind of his stubborn Portuguese boss.

He could not, and after United resisted Chelsea's attempts to lure Wayne Rooney as part of the deal, he was soon flying to Carrington in a helicopter (even that was slick).

His start at Old Trafford coincided with the end of David Moyes's short, ill-fated stint.
There was flashes of genius but a lack of pace and consistency around Mata as we limped to a seventh placed finish, leaving many to believe getting £37m was another Mourinho master-stroke.

That opinion was bolstered last season when a Mata-less Chelsea marched to the Premier League title with ease.

Many at Stamford Bridge, however, hold onto the belief that the fans' favourite should not have been allowed to leave - especially not to a rival - and that the move may come back to bite Mourinho on the backside. 

Whilst it still may be early in the season this looks like it could be the year when that happens.

He's convinced LVG of his class and the Mata assist machine is in full flow.

He has played a part in nine goals in just 12 matches as a suddenly-fluent United find themselves at the top of the table with Mata at times unplayable.

It's easy to forget as well that is all this is happening from out wide, a position that he does not regard as his favourite or even his best.

Hugs, Jose. 

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