Manchester’s Mata(dor)

Juan Mata has widely been seen as one of the best attacking players in the EPL ever since arriving at Chelsea and David Moyes, having endured a frustrating first summer in the transfer market as manager at Manchester United, was thrilled to complete the deal for Mata. By Sam Walker.

There has been little reason for Manchester United fans to cheer this season as they come to terms with life after Sir Alex Ferguson.

By his own admission, results under new manager David Moyes have been worse than anyone could have expected and supporters are bracing themselves for the possible loss of not only the English Premier League title but also the UEFA Champions League.

Reasons for optimism have been few and far between during a difficult campaign but the signing of Juan Mata in January was a rare high point.

Purchased from EPL rivals Chelsea for a club-record fee of GBP37.1 million, most neutrals were shocked that the Blues would let someone of Mata’s quality leave, especially to another English team.

He has widely been seen as one of the best attacking players in the EPL ever since arriving at Chelsea and Moyes, having endured a frustrating first summer in the transfer market at United, was thrilled to complete the deal for Mata.

“I’m delighted he’s here,” said Moyes. “We’ve got a really exciting player and one I’m looking forward to working with.

“He did a great job for Chelsea in the last few years with his goalscoring and assists and I’m looking forward to seeing him in the red jersey now and doing it for us.”

It was the red shirt of Spain that Garcia grew up dreaming of wearing.

Born as Juan Manuel Mata Garcia in Burgos in northern Spain, he was raised in his father’s home city of Oviedo in Asturias and played for their youth teams before joining Real Madrid’s academy La Fabrica.

He progressed to playing for Real’s B team Castilla in Spain’s second division before getting his major breakthrough when he joined Valencia in the summer of 2007.

He made his debut aged 19 in September 2007 in a 2-1 win at Almeria and was first on target for Los Che five months later in a 2-0 win at Real Valladolid.

Mata made his Champions League debut against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December of the same year, not knowing then that he would return to the venue on a permanent basis later in his career.

The season ended on a high for both the player and the team as Mata scored the opening goal in the Copa del Rey final to set up a 3-1 victory over Getafe, while Mata was also named as the best young player in La Liga.

He quickly became a regular in the Valencia first team and was highly impressive as the team qualified for Europe in three consecutive seasons. He played alongside the likes of David Silva and David Villa, scoring 46 goals across his four years at the Mestalla.

During his time at Valencia he was given his debut in the Spanish national side during a World Cup qualifier against Turkey and remained part of the squad that went on to be crowned world champions in South Africa.

It was not just his goals that made him stand out and it was his instinct for a killer pass and his minutes-to-assist ratio that attracted Chelsea to him, with new Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas splashing out GBP25million for his services in August 2011.

Villas-Boas did not last long at Stamford Bridge but Mata proved a smart signing and he played a key role as Chelsea defied the odds to win their maiden UEFA Champions League trophy in 2012, beating Bayern Munich on penalties in their own stadium in the final.

A dream year continued for Mata as he helped Spain win Euro 2012, scoring the last goal in a 4-0 victory over Italy in the final.

The following season Chelsea were eliminated at the group stage of the Champions League but regrouped to win the Europa League under Rafael Benitez as Mata added to his medal collection.

His first two years at Chelsea could not have gone much better and he was named as the club’s player of the year in both of them, having contributed 55 assists in that time.

Mata’s fortunes changed when Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea and suddenly his first-team appearances were limited.

With Mata becomingly increasingly frustrated and Mourinho enjoying plenty of options in his squad, a parting of the ways was agreed and Manchester United were quick to step in as they tried to turn around their poor start to the season.

The GBP37.1million move was completed on January 24, with Mata revealing his desire to enjoy more success at Old Trafford.

“At this club I believe you can achieve anything,” he said. “I’m still young and have been lucky to win some trophies, but I want to win a lot more.”

That seems unlikely this season as United continue to falter but more regular first-team football should ensure Mata’s place in the Spain squad as they look to retain the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

FACTFILE NAME: Juan Mata POSITION: Midfielder CLUB: Manchester United DOB: 28/4/1988 INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 30 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 9

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Being a part of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad in 2010.

MOMENT TO FORGET:

Reacting angrily to being substituted by Mourinho at Southampton earlier this season.

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