On a day when the world record signing of Paul Pogba was all but confirmed and Manchester United lifted the Charity Shield in a 2-1 victory against Leicester City, it was a story about the ‘smallest player’ on the pitch, Juan Mata which made headlines.
Having come on as a substitute and having played less than 30 minutes Jose Mourinho decided to take Mata off for tactical reasons. Mata was clearly frustrated, Mourinho was nonchalant, but has the blue touch paper really been lit between these two?
It is alleged that Mata and Mourinho have a troubled relationship, with Mata being sold previously by Mourinho during their time at Chelsea.
The truth is no player likes being substituted but if you listened to the BBC pundit Danny Murphy you would believe it was the end for Mata at Manchester United. Murphy said, “he [Mourinho] is basically saying to him [Mata] you are not important and he has done it publicly. I can’t see him still being at the club at the end of August.”
There is no doubt Mata was frustrated, but so were the players Mourinho didn’t pick when sending on Mata in the first place. Among them were Manchester United new boy Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Dutch winger Memphis Depay.
Mourinho said after the game “the rules allow six changes, I had made five and I wanted to stop the game.” He continued, “I needed to take off the smallest player because we were expecting a lot of long balls.”
So there you have it. It was a tactical decision done in the final minute of a game he was trying to win. It’s as simple as that.