Juan Mata has reflected on the end of his first season at Manchester United, a few months after joining us in the January window, when the club finished seventh under David Moyes, having won the league the previous season.
The Spaniard has talked about the support the team got from the fans that day and how he can’t imagine that loyalty elsewhere.
Speaking to The Times ahead of his autobiography being launched, he has discussed the United legacy and the club’s identity.
In my first season when we did the lap of honour, we’d come seventh, not good enough, and I was expecting people really being hard to us, and rightfully so but I was looking at the stands and they were looking at me, and saying, ‘no matter what, come on, next season’. I got goose bumps. It’s not normal. That showed me the value that the fans have in English football and especially in a club like Manchester United. It’s still unbelievable to feel how they still are behind us, even in difficult moments. But they are humans and there is a limit and I understand that.
When I was on the outside, I saw Manchester United as a team, always striving for winning, always trying to play with personality and not being overshadowed by any other team in the world. Now I am on the inside, I feel United are the same.
Manchester United has such a different aura, such a different identity from other clubs, and you cannot get that in a quick amount of time. This club has history, players here are the best in the world. It has Old Trafford, all the fans and the tragedy [Munich] that happened, unfortunately. It’s recovered from the tragedy, it has the incredible story with Sir Alex, it has the Matt Busby story, it has the Jimmy Murphy story. It has something that you cannot buy, which is the DNA of United. For other clubs to get that will take many years.
It’s the power of the shirt and the badge. There are not many clubs in the world that have that. Three, four? Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool. You can also speak about Juventus, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Milan, Inter. But Barca, Real Madrid, United and Liverpool are the ones, because of the past.
Mata had the opportunity to sign for other clubs when he left Chelsea in January 2014, and there were other options on the table for him this summer when he was offered a year-long extension by the club, but the Spaniard wants to be a Red.
I had other options but I wanted to know how it felt to be a Manchester United player. That’s something I said when I renewed my contract, and something I still stand up for: being part of this club even now, which is not in a very good moment in terms of results, makes me feel prouder than being at other clubs. I’d probably be enjoying the football more [elsewhere], the style, whatever, but not feeling fulfilled inside. To become a Manchester United player is something that you cannot compare with many other things in the football world.