Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata insists he has never had a bad relationship with manager Jose Mourinho.
There was speculation the Spain international could be forced out of Old Trafford when Mourinho took over from Louis van Gaal last year, given that he sold Mata to United as Chelsea boss in 2014.
Mata was even substituted just half an hour after coming on in the Community Shield last August, but the 29-year-old has since established himself as a key part of Mourinho’s plans.
The former Valencia man says he left Chelsea simply because he did not fit the preferred system at Stamford Bridge, with Mourinho favouring Oscar in the number 10 position, but he denies there has been any notable change in their relationship.
Asked why he suits Mourinho’s United more than Chelsea, he told El Pais: “The context, the club, the squad and the way of playing have all changed.
“I’ve never had a bad relationship with him. We’ve never had a discussion. Our relationship is normal.
“It was simply that, at Chelsea, he wanted to play in a certain way and at United there are other types of players more in accordance with my characteristics. We’re both the same, we haven’t changed.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 3, 2017
Mata went on to pinpoint what he believes to be the key attributes for a manager who strives to enjoy the success of Mourinho.
“You have to be a leader in the good and bad times and try to get the best out of the player,” he said. “It’s complicated, but managing personalities is almost more important than the tactical or the physical side.
“Having the capability to motivate the players and communicate in a positive way is what makes for a good atmosphere.”
Mata has battled back from groin surgery to be fit for the first leg of United’s Europa League semi-final with Celta Vigo on Thursday and it is a match he warns could be much more difficult than some predict.
“It’s very important because it’s a trophy that United haven’t won and it’s another route into the next Champions League,” he said.
“We’ve watched videos and analysed their style of play, which is lively, with talented players and a real defensive intensity. The boss has made it clear what this semi-final means to them, to the fans and the city, so we must be at our best to overcome them.
“Personally, I think they’re an uncomfortable opponent because they man-mark and they’re fast in attack.”
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