Juan Mata is now in his seventh season as a Manchester United player and is well aware of the pressure that comes with wearing our shirt. Speaking to The Telegraph, Mata has discussed how the media and rival fans are obsessed with this club, and how the pleasure that others take in us losing inspires the players even more to win.
We know that fans of this club have been used to winning and when you are in a period of change – Sir Alex leaving and different managers – and trying to win this Premier League title again which we haven’t won for six years then of course there is pressure from the fans, from the media and everywhere. But there is only one way you can deal with it and that is to face it and manage and cope with the pressure and I think you do that on a daily basis. If you do your routine right, if you train right, if you demand from each other then it will pay off and you will be able to handle it better. Also you need to realise who you are playing for.
You journalists speak more about United than other clubs, right? That’s something I realised from the first moment. If you see pundits on TV – a lot of ex-Man United players. If you see the newspapers there is always something on Man United. Even if it is a small story it is bigger because it’s Manchester United. The level of repercussion is crazy which makes you think even more on how united we have to be with the fans, club, players because you have that sense that everyone who does not support United is happy when United loses. That’s a fact.
Everyone wants us to do bad which has to make us stick together even more and get that feeling that we are back. That’s one of the things that makes this club special. It has done many, many great things over the years which is very difficult to match but when we are in the position of having an historical advantage then it also feels good. You cannot get it like that (clicks fingers). It takes time and you need winning and you need a club’s culture. And culture is also something I have learnt since I have been at this club. Its culture is key from the first moment and I’m happy that I can say I’ve learnt that and it’s important that every new player who comes to the club understands what Manchester United is.
In United’s opening two games of the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has started very young teams, both averaging 24-years-old, and Mata recognises the importance of acting as a role model for the young players.
As you get older you can also put experience to the team, right?. To be honest I feel the same as the young players when we are training and how much I enjoy it but when they start speaking about when they were born then I’m in trouble! ‘Yeah, I was born in 99 or 2000’. I am always used to being the youngest! In Castilla, Real Madrid B, I was the youngest, in Valencia, the youngest, at Chelsea I was 22 when I arrived and suddenly…
It feels ok. Physically and mentally and it actually feels good and you feel more mature as a man and as a football player, you’ve been in more situations that you will face. I am calmer and I react better to the bad moments. It used to worse when I had a bad game and it was really, really painful and longer than it should because that was not healthy.
We have a young squad, the last starting XIs were the youngest (in the Premier League)? It tells you that if the present is OK then the future can be better and that you are building a solid foundation. Marcus Rashford is 21 and he’s already played many games and scored many goals. The experience they have at that age and playing for a club like this is priceless and another thing that is needed is us, is experience, is older players to get the balance.
I think Ole knows that. You can have many young players but you also need experience especially when a difficult moment come. I also feel we have made good signings. The players who have come are good people, hungry, young but also experienced – Harry and Aaron have played many games – and they have adapted very quickly.
At United Mata has won the Europa League, League Cup and the FA Cup, with him scoring in the final at Wembley, but is determined to bring back the glory days to Old Trafford.
We’ve won the Europa League, the FA Cup and League Cup, and I’ve been here in good and bad moments but I want to be here for the really good moments. And I am proud of myself for that. In terms of being available for the team and always been there even in the bad moments, going out on the pitch and trying my best, it can be better or worse, but I was there. And I am also proud of that.
We can speak about trophies and celebrate winning the Premier League or Champions League and that would be fantastic. But even if we don’t do that I am going to try as much as I can to keep improving and bringing this club back to where it belongs and that will make me happier with myself because sometimes you cannot always get what you want but you can give everything and I will do that, for sure.