MATA INTERVIEW WITH CANAL+
After recently moving from Chelsea to Manchester United during the January transfer window, new fan favourite Juan Mata decided to open up to Canal+ in Spain and talk about his relationship with David Moyes, how De Gea harassed him constantly about making the move and much more. Below is a (near) full transcript of the interview.
On Manchester United’s interest:
I knew there was an interest, although I didn’t realise it was true until the two clubs started talking to each other. Chelsea told me there was an offer, an important offer. In the end, I did it due to the situation I was in over the past few months, and the opportunity to be at Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world. When you’re looking from the outside, you think it is, but it’s only when you are a part of it that you realise that it really is one of the biggest clubs in the world. Here I am, very happy in this new city, in this new step in my career, and I hope that everything will go well.
On whether he feels any pressure:
No, no. Simply no. Because when I’m on the pitch, all I think about is playing, enjoying myself and feeling comfortable, like I always have. At the end of the day, the price of transfers during the window is something for clubs to sort out and as players, we have nothing to do with it. What we have to do is turn up, train, enjoy the training and enjoy the football. In the end, everything happened so quickly. I know that I have responsibilities, but this doesn’t stop me from enjoying it and producing on the pitch.
On the club’s objectives:
The objective is to get to the Champions League spots. It’s difficult because Liverpool are doing well, so are Arsenal, as well as Tottenham and Everton, who are all clubs also fighting for them, but I think we have a team who can do it. This is Manchester United. When this club wins two, three or four matches in a row, it has a very important mental strength, a winner’s mentality. We are coming and I think we can do it, but we have to win a lot of games first.
On his first time out at Old Trafford as a Manchester United player:
It was really emotional. It was incredible. I’d already played there as the away team, but playing there as the home team, just imagine. The stadium is huge, the fans are very dedicated to singing and it was all good, because we won, I found myself on the pitch surrounded by top quality players and from the off, the first training session, they have helped me integrate as best possible. Physically, I hadn’t trained a lot the previous week, but I feel good.
On his new teammates:
I’ve known David (De Gea) since we played for the national team at youth level. The week before I arrived, he was hassling me and when I arrived I stayed with him. Everyone has received me well, but he has been the one who has gone out of his way the most.
I didn’t know Giggs, but I had and still have a lot of admiration and respect for him. He’s been really good. He has helped me from the very beginning, made sure everything went perfectly. It’s a pleasure that he’s here and it’s a pleasure for me to play alongside a player like him. To reach 40 and still be playing at this level is fantastic.
Van Persie, Rooney, Chicharito, Welbeck. These are all players who always score goals. Playing with them is a pleasure. I got an assist for Van Persie and what’s great about playing with them is that if you pass them the ball, it’s a goal. It’s a goal pretty much every time.
On David Moyes & the club:
More than anything, he made me feel important and I think that’s fundamental when you arrive at such a big club that has made a huge investment in you. It’s nice when the manager tells you “Juan, you’re important to the team and we need you on the ball as much as possible” and that’s what I try to do. My relationship with him is good, friendly and from the off, he seemed to me to be a great person.
This is a club that should always be fighting for the Premier League. I think, in the last 20 or 21 years, they’ve won 13 times. The mentality of this club is to win and fight for all the trophies. Unfortunately this year, things haven’t gone so well in the league, but I believe there is still time this season. With the mentality and the staff that we have, I believe we can climb up the table and win as many games as possible.
There are good people here. First and foremost young people. When you play for Manchester United it’s difficult because you have a lot of responsibillity. I don’t know what will happen in the summer but the manager said the other day at a press conference that he’s going to be signing players. I think this club is at a stage of change, a bit of change in the project, but as I’ll tell you, at this club the best players in the world will always arrive.
On Sir Alex Ferguson and the future:
All he has done here, everything Ferguson has complished is pretty much unattainable. He has won everything possible to win with this club in the last 20-25 years and it’s tough to maintain such a level of excellence. But at the end of the day, it was these players that won the league last season. And the new manager has arrived knowing what this club is. I think he has a great relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson and with time everything will get better, the results will get better and we’ll get back to being where this club deserves to be.
On Mourinho and Chelsea:
We spoke and he [Mourinho] said that he thought this was a good option for me, and I told him I thought this was a good option for me. We didn’t speak for long. I wasn’t playing, and to be honest, I am happy when I play football. It’s the thing I like to do the most. He wished me good luck and told me to be good, as did everyone at the club [Chelsea]. I’m very grateful for my time at Chelsea and for all the trophies I have won. We had a fantastic relationship, I had great relationships with several of my teammates. They weren’t just my teammates, but my friends. Fernando [Torres] for example. I was very saddend to tell him I was leaving him. It was tough to tell him I was going because he is a very important person to me, but we’ll keep in touch we aren’t that far away from each other.
I’ve already had a tour around the city! The other day I was having dinner with David Silva and he recommended a couple of places to me. I think there are several beautiful places in this city and now I get to discover another city in England.
Now I’d like to present you to my friend, the one that has welcomed me here. He does everything with me, he’s part of my security team, he takes me to get to know the training ground, he shows me the city, I present to you; David de Gea.
De Gea walks in and sits next to Mata
Mata: Tell them about all the messages you have been sending me!
De Gea: Yeah, I’m sure you had to get a phone and everything was a bit crazy. But it’s good that you are here and we have gotten you here.
He’s a great player that will help the team a lot and knowing him as a person, he will also help in the dressing room and help the whole team grow.
Mata: We are going to be neighbours too, so that’s good!
De Gea: Yeah, I brought him to the nice part of the city
(both laugh again)
Mata: He’s a realtor too!
(Journalist asks if there are any other Spanish players living nearby)
Mata and De Gea both mention that they think Navas and Negredo live close.
De Gea: I think he has come in and played very well. I’m very happy that he is here and I hope he keeps growing as a player and that he continues to improve the club.
Mata: OK, that’s it.. I will pay you that dinner that I promised you!
Transcribed and translated by @sardinetrawler & @CheGiaevara
Bring the big Fella!
Every team needs that sort of player that make the opposition quake in their boots. The type of player that will force his opponent to commit, gamble and eventually crumble. The type of player that, when the other team’s manager reads out the opposing eleven, you hear a unified sigh throughout the dressing room: you know it’s going to be a long afternoon as soon as you spot his name on the team sheet.
It doesn’t really come down to technical ability or passing range, it comes down to your willingness to combat your opposition to the ground. Roy Keane, even though underrated, was never the most technical player. However, when teams saw his name on the team sheet, they knew what was coming. That alone won games. The fear and the anticipation, knowing that across the pitch stands a man who doesn’t think twice before sacrificing his body for his team. Manchester United have lacked that. A man that can dominate a game just by being who he is. That man can be Marouane Fellaini.
If there’s something fans have complained about for the past years, it’s United’s lack of presence in midfield. Despite catching a lot of grief, Sir Alex Ferguson did try to address the issue several times in his last few seasons at Old Trafford. Owen Hargreaves was unlucky, so was Darren Fletcher and Anderson never fit the role to begin with. The emergence of Tom Cleverley gave United a new perspective to how the midfield was to be run, while Phil Jones, who really is a centre back, was the only pure physical specimen when called upon in midfield. This has left Michael Carrick with the herculean task of controlling a midfield by positioning himself excellently, balancing the midfield and defence and acting as a deep-lying playmaker. A test which he has passed with flying colours, but that perhaps needs a bit revamping under David Moyes.
Although Carrick controls a game from the deep, even he has seem himself being combatted to the ground by the likes Yaya Touré. When faced with intense pressure from teams such as Man City, Liverpool and Everton, that task becomes too great even for Carrick. This is where Marouane Fellaini comes in. At 6’4” and with the frame of a barn door, there’s only one adjective that could describe him at the heart of Manchester United’s midfield: Brobdingnagian. Despite not being credited for it, Fellaini levels out his lack of pace with a high footballing IQ. He’ll position himself where he thinks things will happen. This may also be the reason why David Moyes used him as an offensive midfielder for a great part of the 2012/2013-season. As midfields would be running at Carrick and Fellaini, they’d face a battering ram of gigantic proportions in Fellaini before Michael Carrick elegantly sweeps away what Fellaini misses, somewhat in a similar manner to how Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand made their partnership in the heart of defence function.
But this is midfield, right? And Fellaini adds plenty of things to a Manchester United midfield that severely lacks presence. He’s not a midfield maestro and nor does he need to be. Looking at how Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney interchange in terms of dropping deep and establishing play from the back, Fellaini won’t need to part take in that. He will be called upon to carry the ball between the opposing lines. Again, something which he often did do at Everton, knowing that someone would secure the space left behind.
The undervalued factor, however, is the intimidation he’ll scare out of opposing teams. In his first interview with MUTV after having signed Fellaini, Moyes mentioned how teams absolutely hate playing against Fellaini. United fans will know this all too well having seen United struggle to keep up with the behemoth in the league opener against Everton last season. This is also where the comparison to Roy Keane comes in. Fellaini is no Roy Keane, let’s put that to bed already, but he’s the player you’re looking over your shoulder for. Because you know he’s coming. And you know it’s going to hurt when he gets there.
The Two Faces of Antonio Valencia
He had delivered cross after cross. Whipped them high across the box. Smacked them across the turf. No result. Manchester United were battling to stay alive in the race for the title and he was carrying them on the back. In the 81st minute he had had enough. If they couldn’t finish the job, he’d do it himself. And so he did.
There’s something beautifully nostalgic about a winger who thrives on getting chalk on his boots. They ply their trade bombing down the sides of the pitch just waiting for a chance to run at their defender and deliver a ball in. In the days where wingers are relied to move inwards and act as a wide attacker, the job the traditional winger used to do is passed on to the modern wingback. Nevertheless, any Manchester United fan relishes any time Antonio Valencia gets on the ball. Because things will happen. Well, they used to happen.
When Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009 the torch was passed on to the Ecuadorian. That was never fair. To be the man to replace the irreplaceable is never really fair. Valencia, however, brought something new to the table. When the ball was passed out to him, he’d hesitate, wait until he found a chink in his defender’s armor and then hammer at him. On the outside of his defender he’d get the first yard and would smash cross after cross in. A throwback to the days of Andrei Kanchelskis or David Beckham, Valencia represented something old, yet fresh, at Manchester United. With Ronaldo gone, United seemed perhaps a bit more like a unit whereas with Cristiano Ronaldo it was pretty much all about him.
As the season progressed, so did Valencia’s improvement. It was therefore valid to believe that he would really stake his claim in his second season. Unfortunately, a freak injury to his ankle saw Valencia out for five months. When he returned, it seemed like he hadn’t even skipped a beat. Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola’s even said ahead of the 2011 Champions League final that Antonio Valencia was the best pure winger this world had to offer. Another testament to the development and importance Valencia had. The next season proved even greater for Valencia as delivering 5 goals and 15 assists in 32 games was enough reason for Valencia to be named both the “Fans’ Player of the Season” and “The Player’s Player of the Season”. He also completed his hat trick by having his goal against Blackburn named “Goal of the Season”. Having had endless crosses result in nothing, he took matter into his own hands and kept United in the title race with an absolute thunderbolt of a strike from the edge of the area. It seemed as if Antonio Valencia really had become “Toño Maravilla” (Amazing Tony).
Before the start of the 2012/2013-season Antonio Valencia switched his no.25 shirt for the legendary no.7. Does a shirt really matter in terms of performances? There are many theories both ways, but perhaps there are valid claims that it has become too big of a burden for the broad-shouldered Ecuadorian. There certainly weren’t any obvious factors that led to the drop in form. In fact, Valencia recorded the second highest amount of games as Manchester United player last season, second only to his first season at the club. Yet, the end product seemed increasingly worse. The one thing said about Antonio Valencia was “it’s one thing knowing what he’s going to do, it’s another to stop him from doing it”. The bombing down the flanks, the variation in crossing, the ferocious shot he unleashed from time to time had turned into short backpasses, getting caught out by his man and generally not looking comfortable on the wing. Sure, there were injury niggles here and there, but nothing that really would explain his sudden fall from grace. So what stopped Tony in his tracks?
The answer is that there really is no definite answer. Having gone from one of Manchester United’s brightest attacking weapons to somewhat of liability in under a season is nothing short of bizarre. With no real reports of there being an injury problem, it would seem plausible that the bright lights and big stage at Old Trafford just became a bit too bright and a bit too big when Valencia adorned the no.7. From having been a maverick, an alternative out wide, he suddenly became the headliner. It is one thing to deal with it in Ecuador, it’s another to deal with it at Manchester United. What does ring through is that the managerial change at Manchester United will lead to a career defining season for United’s no.7. As David Moyes continues to tinker with his team, it seems possible that Antonio Valencia will eventually get the chance to redeem himself. And as the 2013/2014 season brings to life a whole new era at Manchester United, the timing couldn’t be any more perfect for “Toño Maravilla” to make his long-awaited comeback.