Why Juan Mata’s time is up at Man Utd

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald Updated: 19 May 2021 16:43 CEST 3 min read
Why Juan Mata’s time is up at Man Utd

Juan Mata’s contract at Manchester United expires this summer, and with no new deal on the horizon, it seems like a mutual parting of ways is the best scenario for all parties.

The Spaniard is still revered at the club due to his professionalism, his mentorship towards younger players and, of course, his talent as a gifted footballer.

But, he will turn 33-years-old by the time the current season finishes, and although he still has a move left in him, his time at the highest level competing for titles with the Red Devils is over, as highlighted by his appearances, or lack there of, in 2020/21.

Mata has started just four games in the Premier League this season and eight in all competitions, accumulating to just 665 minutes of football.

For a player who won’t be in the game much longer, this certainly isn’t ideal, and he’ll be keen to move on to pastures new to enjoy the twilight years of his career.

Over the past 18 months or so under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he has dropped down the pecking order at Old Trafford, with Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Daniel James, and now Donny van de Beek usually selected ahead of him in the attacking midfield positions.

Unfortunately for Mata, his positive impact on Man Utd at the moment comes from the professionalism off the pitch, rather than his performances on it.

Though this is extremely admirable, with Mata known throughout the game as being one of the nicest guys out there, he is still a competitor, and will want to tally up as many appearances as he can before he hangs up the boots.

Man Utd do have the option to trigger a 12-month extension in his contract, but a departure is looking more likely.

Where could Mata go?

Inter

Inter have, unfairly, picked up reputation over the past couple of years for being a haven for supposed Premier League rejects.

Ashley Young and Romelu Lukaku were deemed surplus to requirements at Man Utd and were subsequently sold to Inter, though the big Belgian is currently making a mockery of that decision by continuing to bang in the goals for the Nerazzurri.

Christian Eriksen, too, looked to have made the wrong decision in joining Inter from Tottenham, but in the past couple of months has started to look the part for Antonio Conte’s side.

The very presence of Eriksen at Inter makes any Mata move seem unlikely as they are relatively similar players, but as there would be no transfer fee, Conte might take a punt on a player who has the ability to unlock defences.

Perhaps the former Chelsea boss can rehabilitate Mata like he is doing with Lukaku, Young, and Eriksen.

Juventus

The modus operandi of Juventus recently has been to pick up the most talented young players in Italy, as shown by their acquisitions of Federico Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski.

Andrea Pirlo is currently trying to establish a vibrant, young team, so it doesn’t seem likely that the Bianconeri would break this current strategy to bring in Mata, even if he would provide some experience.

It is possible that Juve might sell Paulo Dybala this summer, but replacing him with a 33-year-old Mata probably wouldn’t go down too well with the Allianz Stadium faithful.

Roma

Out of the teams who are reportedly interested in Mata from Serie A, the club that would make the most sense would be Roma.

This is for no main reason other than he has a much better opportunity to get into the starting XI at the Stadio Olimpico than he would at Inter or Juventus.

However, Roma do already have quite a few veterans from attacking midfield into the centre-forward role, with Edin Dzeko, Pedro, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all having made their way from the Premier League recently.

They will need to decide if they want another.

Valencia

FootballTransfers previously reported that Valencia were looking into the possibility of bringing Mata back to the club he left in 2011 to join Chelsea.

Los Che are currently in a dire financial state, and will apparently be assessing various free transfer options in the summer.

Mata remains a darling of the Valencia fans, so one speed bump in the move could be the presence of owner Peter Lim, who is unanimously hated by the supporters at the moment.

The Man Utd star would need to decide whether he wants to return to the club under that regime.