Juan Mata - Player Profile

There’s Only Juan Mata

Personal information
Full name: Juan Manuel Mata Garcia
Date of birth: (1988-04-28) 28 April 1988 (age 26) 
Place of birth: Ocon de Villafranca, Burgos, Spain 
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Playing position: Midfielder

Club information
Current team: Manchester United
Number: 8 

Youth career 
1998–2003: Real Oviedo
2003–2006: Real Madrid

Senior career 
2006–2007: Real Madrid B 39 Appearances, 10 goals
2007–2011: Valencia 174 Appearances, 46 goals
2011–2014: Chelsea 135 Appearances, 33 goals
2014– Manchester United 42 Appearances, 14 goals

National team
2004 Spain U16 3 Appearances, 2 goals
2004 Spain U17 2 Appearances, 1 goal
2006–2007 Spain U19 13 Appearances, 12 goals
2007 Spain U20 5 Appearances, 3 goals
2007–2011 Spain U21 19 Appearances, 5 goals
2012 Spain U23 4 Appearances, 0 goals
2009– Spain 34 Appearances, 10 goals

Juan Mata has enjoyed his best form in recent weeks of his Manchester United career. The little Spaniard has showed what he is capable of and just what he brings to the team. After a slow start to his career in a Man United jersey, Mata finally looks like the player we all know him to be.

Mata was given a rapturous ovation as he left the Old Trafford pitch after 77 minutes of the game against Tottenham Hotspur on March 15. In his blog post entitled "Perfect Evening in Old Trafford,"
The fans who cheered him off the pitch, along the touchline and into the tunnel at the Stretford End were amply rewarded by Mata's Man of the Match performance at Anfield the following week after the Spaniard scored a brace to give Man United a 2-1 victory. Playing as what Louis van Gaal called a "false right-winger", Mata was hugely involved, taking 91 touches—more than any other player on the pitch. He was, without question, United's standout performer. Watching, it felt like a coming-of-age moment for Mata in a United shirt. Signed in the doldrums of the David Moyes’ season, the Spaniard's arrival promised much, but he was unable to exert much of an influence on United's faltering season.

This season, it has often felt like Mata has been sacrificed to the cause of finding a place in the side for the Red Devils' plethora of attacking superstars. In order to fit Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie and Angel Di Maria into a side with Mata, he has either played deep or not played at all. He endured a period out in the cold before the Spurs game, playing bit-part roles as a substitute or missing out altogether. He was forced to look on from the sidelines as United crashed out of the FA Cup. With that said, the truth remains that Mata has played a good deal for Van Gaal. He is fifth among United's squad in terms of league minutes played, third in terms of league games in which he has been involved and joint-fifth in terms of games started. There have been times when he has failed to impress and looked too easy to knock off the ball. When United have played poorly, Mata has rarely been able to take games by the scruff of the neck and turn things around for his team. However, for much of the season, Mata has maintained a decent performance level and a decent level of output. He is third in United's top scorer charts in the league—indeed, he already was before the Liverpool game—and fifth in terms of assists. However, the Liverpool game was perhaps his first genuine star turn of the season. Between now and the end of this campaign, he has the chance to cement that starring role in Van Gaal's mind and in the minds of his team-mates. Of course, next season, he may be competing for that top billing with a slightly different cast.

Mata exudes class, intelligence and panache - and not just with a ball at his feet. When the Spaniard travelled to the AON Training Complex on 25 January 2014 to complete his transfer from Chelsea, he arrived by helicopter - a Hollywood-style entrance befitting a player on whom Manchester United spent a club-record fee of £37.1million. Mata is an influential performer in any of the three main attacking positions across the pitch behind the lead striker, on either flank or in the no.10 role. A world-class creator and consistent goal-getter, he netted 12 times in all competitions in his debut season with Chelsea in 2011/12, before scoring 11 in the league alone in the following campaign. However, Mata's game is about more than just attacking from deep to score goals. The Spain international has a sweet left foot, wonderful poise and balance, possesses great vision for a killer pass or wicked cross and is a danger from set-pieces anywhere on the pitch. His creativity sets him apart; only two players in Premier League history boast superior minutes-per-assist ratios, and since Mata arrived in England only Wayne Rooney and David Silva have set up more goals. At the prime age of 25, with his best years ahead of him, already Mata boasts an impressive career CV and trophy haul. A former Real Madrid 'B' youngster, Mata's breakthrough came at Valencia, where he emerged as one of La Liga's stand-out performers before Chelsea won the race to sign him. At Stamford Bridge he produced a string of eye-catching displays – notably against United, enjoying a series of duels with fellow countryman, good friend and Reds goalkeeper David De Gea – and he was voted Chelsea Player of the Year in both full campaigns in west London. These individual awards joined FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League winners' medals in his collection. At international level, Mata's list of honours is even more impressive. He was among Spain's World Cup and European Championship winners, making one substitute appearance in South Africa 2010 before proving even more influential at Euro 2012 by scoring in the final against Italy. He also captained Spain to European Under-21 Championship glory in 2011 and represented his country at the London 2012 Olympics. Mata aims to continue that rich run of success at Old Trafford. "At this club I believe you can achieve anything," he says. "I'm still young and have been lucky to win some trophies, but I want to win a lot more."

Mata looks to have found a position in which he can truly flourish. Not as an out-and-out No. 9 but orchestrating matters from the wing. With eight crucial games ahead, he has his best opportunity yet to make himself invaluable to United. He has the ability to do it, as he demonstrated with such style against Liverpool. He has made sure that he has the spotlight. It is now up to him to shine.