When Jose Mourinho was appointed Manchester United manager earlier in the year, the initial wave of reaction involved plenty of jokes about the reaction of Juan Mata.
The Spanish playmaker was forced out of Chelsea by Mourinho, and the Portuguese manager’s arrival at Manchester United seemed certain to be the end of Mata’s tenure at the club.
Mata had played well in patches for Louis Van Gaal over the past two seasons, but had not been consistently brilliant. His fantastic play with the ball would be enough to get him into most manager’s sides, but his lack of size and physical contribution made players like Oscar Mourinho’s first choice at Chelsea.
Mata’s position was not helped by the arrival of further competition in the form of undroppably-expensive Paul Pogba and Henrik Mkhitaryan. When Mourinho brought the Spaniard on and then off again in the Community Shield, it was seen as a public humiliation designed to force Mata into a move.
But in the last week the Spaniard has been in immense form for United, and following consecutive horror defeats to Feyenoord, Watford and Manchester City, the little playmaker may have turned United’s season around at a vital moment. His performance against Leicester, which included a goal and an assist, was instrumental in a win that has steadied the ship for United. Mata is now concreted his place in the United side, and he will likely be rested for tonight’s game against Zorya Luhansk in preparation for Sunday’s game at struggling Stoke.