Mourinho regrets not making Mata a stronger player

2014-01-27 13:34

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As Juan Mata tries to help David Moyes revive Manchester United’s stuttering season, his former manager, Jose Mourinho, is sorry he could not make the Spaniard a better player.

The 25-year-old playmaker moved from west London to Manchester United on Saturday for £37.1 million (R676 million) and will make his debut for the Premier League holders against Cardiff City at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Mourinho has preferred Brazilian internationals Oscar and Willian, and Belgium winger Eden Hazard, in the three creative positions behind the lone striker. This has left Mata, the two-time Chelsea player of the season, short of match time as he bids for a spot in Spain’s World Cup squad for this year’s Brazil showpiece.

Mourinho told Sky Sports: “I am sorry I didn’t make him a stronger player.”

The Portuguese manager is serving his second spell at Stamford Bridge.

“Maybe it was something new for him, not to be a first- choice [player] in a difficult moment. Maybe that made him – as a man, as a player – stronger but, to be honest, I gave him nothing and I feel sorry with that.

“I tried to make him play in a position where he was not comfortable. He gave everything and played some good matches in that position.

“We are speaking about a world champion, a European champion. It is difficult for him.

“I feel sorry for that and because of that, I feel we couldn’t stop him going to Manchester United despite us being Manchester United’s direct rival,” he added.

Mata is a clever, attacking midfielder with an eye for goal but Mourinho’s faith in 22-year-old Oscar has been repaid with some strong performances, including scoring a stunning free kick in the 1-0 FA Cup fourth-round win over Stoke City yesterday.

Mata, a former Valencia player, was surprised that Chelsea were willing to let him leave. But having been an unused substitute in their last two league matches, he relished the chance to play for another “massive club”.

“To be honest, it is a bit surprising,” he told the Manchester United website.

“But I have to say I’m really grateful to Chelsea, to the owner, everyone who works at the club and the fans – they voted me the best player in the last two seasons and I will always be grateful. They have been amazing with me.

“The last six months were difficult as I didn’t play as much as I wanted to. I understand it’s a team sport so I respected that situation.”

He joins a United side struggling after the departure of Alex Ferguson. They have been knocked out of the FA and League Cups and are sitting seventh in the league, 14 points off leaders, Arsenal, and six off the Champions League spots.

Mata will be unable to help United in the Champions League, having played for Chelsea in the competition this season. But Moyes will be hoping he can provide a spark to ignite his side’s faltering league campaign.

“Juan’s not too far away from [full] fitness,” Moyes said.

“I know he has missed a few games and maybe not started quite as many games as he’d have liked, but I’d like to get him involved against Cardiff.”

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