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Juan Mata plays his best football as a number ten. Who knew?
Ralf Rangnick gave the Spanish playmaker his first Premier League start for Manchester United on Monday night in their clash against Brentford – and they looked a better side with him on the pitch as they recorded a comfortable 3-0 win.
It was a night of firsts. United made over 400 passes in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time this season against Thomas Frank's side; an improvement on a host of poor performances in recent months.
And top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo linked up wonderfully with Mata, who appeared to say his final farewell to fans at Old Trafford after an eight-year spell with the club.
The 34-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and although he has yet to confirm his plans regarding his future, it appears the former Spain international will leave after waving to all corners of the stadium on Monday night.
He's made a total of 283 appearances for United since being brought in by David Moyes for £37.1 million in 2014, but he has struggled for first-team minutes in recent years, despite showing glimpses of brilliance.
Despite a lack of opportunitues at United, the experienced playmaker has always maintained his class off the pitch. After the full-time whistle on Monday night, he stayed behind at Old Trafford to sign autographs and take pictures with fans in the pouring rain.
In fact, pictures of Mata meeting fans emerged on social media at 11:45pm and beyond.
Back in 2019, it was revealed that Mata regularly helps the club's kit room staff by assisting with washing after away games.
According to a report from The Daily Mail, he helps unload the dirty laundry after games, as well as cleaning up the boots and other clothing.
A source at the club spoke about his contributions off the pitch. "Juan is a special guy, he has started to help the kit man and his staff over the last couple of months." he said.
"It sums up what kind of person he is. While his team-mates just jump into their flashy motors and zoom off after being dropped off back after away games, Juan has taken it on himself to stay behind and give a helping hand to the ordinary staff.
"It's a huge job to unload all the gear off the coach and takes a good while.
"People have been saying what a great gesture it is but to be honest it's just typical of the man - we are saying he has to be the nicest man in football."
When asked if he could have used Mata more often throughout the campaign, the interim boss said: "Yes, maybe it was the first game he played from the beginning, [but it] also had to do with the opposition in this position and in the last couple of weeks he was one of the players who showed in training how professional he is and how much he loves the game. He had moments when he played like a magician."
Do you think United should have used Mata more?
Let us know in the comments.
Featured Image Credit: @SimonPeach/@samuelluckhurst - Twitter
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