The Spanish playmaker understands the fans’ current frustration and has explained why he likes to learn about the history of the teams he plays for
Juan Mata has insisted he shares the pain of Manchester United supporters when their big rivals Liverpool and Manchester City win trophies.
Speaking to Goal at the launch of his new book ‘Suddenly A Footballer’, the United midfielder has stressed that a domestic clean sweep of trophies for City, followed by a Champions League triumph for Liverpool, added up to a miserable 2018-19 season for Mata.
Former Liverpool and United striker Michael Owen sparked a debate when he recently told Goal that leaving a big club and later signing for one of their rivals was akin to a supermarket worker at Tesco leaving to join Sainsbury’s.
But Mata, who was an unused substitute as United drew 1-1 with arch-rivals Liverpool on Sunday, clearly has a different view.
“I like to watch matches when I have a day off because I love the game and I can appreciate good football, but if I am watching Liverpool or Man City playing, the rivalry they have with my club means a lot to me,” stated Mata.
“You can say it doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to a fan, but it can for sure. Michael Owen clearly gave you a different view on this, but the rivalry that means a lot to the fans of my club also means a lot to me.
“For example, I have a passion for my first club Real Oviedo. So, I cannot be happy if they play well and the result has gone against them. Also, I cannot look at their rivals and say I am happy if they are playing good football and achieving more.
“It has been the same now that I am at United. You can see that City and Liverpool are good teams and they play nice football, but I cannot be happy that United are behind them at the moment. Of course not. I understand what it means to the fans to be behind City and Liverpool, and I cannot be happy about this. I prefer to focus on us rather than thinking about our rivals.”
Mata also revealed that he likes to embrace the culture of the clubs he plays for, with his eagerness to understand the history and traditions of United at the forefront of his mind when he made the move from Chelsea in January 2014.
“When I go to a club, it has been important for me to get passionately involved,” he added. “This has been why I always try to learn about the history of a club I play for, to understand their rivalries. I always like to go out in the city, to visit historic places and to learn about the fans and what matters to them.
“This has been something I do for myself. First of all, I love football and there are many things I didn’t know about Chelsea’s history, or United’s big rivalries and big games.
“So, I will always encourage every soccer professional in the world to try for one season to learn more about their club and not just be a passenger passing by in history.
“Sometimes players come to a club and maybe don’t have a desire to understand what it means to play for them, but I like to understand more, especially when you are playing for a big and historic club like United.
“What always amazes me when we go away with United for pre-season tours has been the size of everything. You know before you get there that it has been going to be big, but when you see it first hand it has been even bigger. You see it when we go to Ireland or Australia, like we did before this season, the amount of supporters and the passion for the club has been just incredible.
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“Every time you see this, it reminds you that you are playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Also, that brings responsibility and we have to handle that. There are many people watching our games and not just in Manchester and England, so it means that success has been even bigger than it has been for some clubs and also disappointment has been felt by a lot of people.”
Juan Mata has been proud to support Common Goal which aims to unite the global football community in tackling the greatest social challenges of our time. He has been giving 99 per cent of his proceeds from this book to this cause. Why 99 per cent? Read the book to find out . . . ‘
Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer’ has been on sale now.