Juan Mata got here, he conquered, and was forgotten about. The ‘Wizard’s’ final residence sport for Manchester United emphasised his misspent high quality.
For Manchester United – a membership in turmoil, in want of calm heads, determined for humility amid the conceitedness, high quality amid the mediocre – handy Juan Mata his first Premier League begin of the season in May is an absolute nonsense.
The ‘Wizard’, denied legendary standing within the Premier League by Red Devil mismanagement and ill-thought-out technique, trotted round Old Trafford on Monday, working arduous, creating and – maybe most significantly – caring, to present the United followers a ultimate glimpse of what they need to have seen way more of in seven-and-a-half years of wasted expertise.
Mata arrived on the membership having gained back-to-back participant of the 12 months awards with Chelsea, as one of many Premier League’s foremost creators. He contributed the identical variety of assists (32) in two-and-half seasons at Chelsea as he has achieved in the remainder of his decade-long stint within the English high flight. He very almost surpassed his Chelsea tally on Monday.
It was prime Mata. Having wandered over to the left wing from his floating No.10 function, he fantastically cushioned a volley to Bruno Fernandes on midway, beat the offside entice to spin in behind, acquired the return ball, earlier than weighting a cross completely into Cristiano Ronaldo’s path. Had CR7 held his run by half a second, Mata’s brilliance wouldn’t have been in useless.
And that’s, in a approach, a wonderful abstract of his United profession, as Ronaldo, like his membership, did not make the most of Mata’s high quality.
As Gary Neville referenced on commentary, the signing of Mata in January 2014 is in hindsight seen as the primary of many indicators of post-Fergie fuzzy-thinking. Having signed Marouane Fellaini six months earlier than, David Moyes opted for the polar reverse as his second and ultimate signing. Neither the Belgian brute nor the diminutive graduate of the Real Madrid academy have been midfielders like every other within the previous 20 years at Old Trafford, and have since been deemed unsuited to the hustle and bustle ‘attack, attack, attack’ of United.
That speaks to maybe the most important drawback at United in Mata’s time on the membership – the obsession to cling to the coattails of Sir Alex Ferguson and preserve a mode of soccer they’ve by no means obtained near matching. Mata, and plenty of signings since, haven’t been an excellent match for that United, however perhaps, simply perhaps, it’s the tried type that’s been the best hinderance to the membership’s progress, moderately than the undoubtedly gifted footballers which have failed to achieve the heights they scaled at different golf equipment.
Having mentioned that, this victory over Brentford, Mata’s solely begin of the season, which admittedly felt a bit like a testimonial, was as near a Sir Alex Ferguson-like efficiency as any we’ve seen this time period. They broke rapidly, with Mata, Fernandes and Ronaldo laying balls off neatly, precisely and working past one another. It was – and this hasn’t been the case for much too lengthy – entertaining soccer.
And leisure has been the title of Juan Mata’s sport within the Premier League. He’s put smiles on the faces of followers and teammates alike with unlikely assists, delicate touches and gorgeous long-range strikes. But most of these fond reminiscences got here in Chelsea blue, earlier than a United profession blighted by managers who failed to understand what he might do in the event that they used him successfully. He leaves the Premier League along with his head held excessive however with an irrefutable sense of frustration at what might have been.