Juan Mata was here, he won, and he was forgotten. Manchester United's last home match against the Wizard highlighted his mispent qualities.
Manchester United is in turmoil and needs calm heads. Juan Mata's Premier League debut in May was a complete blunder.
The Premier League's 'Wizard' was denied its legendary status due to Red Devil mismanagement and poorly-planned strategy. On Monday, the 'Wizard" walked around Old Trafford, caring and working hard to show United fans what they could have seen in seven-and a half years of wasted talent.
Mata, who was a Premier League creator and player of the year winner with Chelsea, arrived at the club after winning back-to-back player-of-the-year awards. In his two-and-half seasons with Chelsea, he contributed 32 assists, the same as he did in all of his decade-long tenure in the English top flight. On Monday, he almost surpassed his Chelsea total.
It was prime Mata. After hopping to the left wing of his floating No.10 position, he gracefully cushioned a volley for Bruno Fernandes on halfway. He beat the offside trap to spin in front, and received the return ball. Then he weighted a cross into Cristiano Ronaldo. Mata's brilliance wouldn't have been wasted if CR7 had held his run for half a second.
This is, in a sense, a great summary of his United career. Ronaldo failed to capitalize on Mata's talent, just like his club.
Gary Neville mentioned in commentary that Mata's signing in January 2014 was seen in hindsight as one of many signs post-Fergie fuzzy thinking. David Moyes signed Marouane Failini six months prior to signing the polar opposite. This was his second and last signing. The diminutive Real Madrid academy graduate and the Belgian brute were not midfielders of the same calibre as any other. They have been disqualified from the bustle of United's 'attack, attacker, attack'.
This speaks to what was perhaps the greatest problem at United during Mata's tenure. It's the desire to follow the lead of Sir Alex Ferguson while playing a style of football that they have never been able to match. Mata and other signings have not been a good fit at United. But maybe it's the tried style that has been the biggest hindrance to the club’s progress rather than the talented footballers who have failed to reach the same heights as they did at other clubs.
However, Mata's win over Brentford, Mata’s first start of the season was a testament to his ability. It felt almost like a testimonial. They broke quickly with Mata, Fernandes, and Ronaldo running faster than each other and laying down balls smartly and accurately. It was entertaining football, and it hasn't been this way for a long time.
Juan Mata has always been a entertainer in the Premier League. With his unlikely assists, delicate touches, and long-range goals, he's made teammates and fans smile. Most of those fond memories were made in Chelsea, before his United career was ruined by managers who didn't realize how much he could do if they used them effectively. With his head high, he leaves the Premier League feeling frustrated at what could be.