Jose Mourinho’s fractured relationship with Paul Pogba has become a mainstay in media headlines across the country this week, but the Portuguese manager’s man-management problems do not start and finish with the controversial Frenchman.
Indeed, Mourinho is a conflicted character who divides opinion throughout the footballing world, but even his most avid supporter would be forced to admit that he has been the architect of his own downfall at Old Trafford.
His negative demeanour and defensive philosophy – which both go against the grain at a club typically characterised by free-flowing attacking football according to recent tradition – appears to be taking its toll on both the supporters and the players.
But the United supporters have little reason to be surprised by the events which are unfolding as Mourinho’s attitude towards Juan Mata at Chelsea served as a telling indicator as to the direction his career was heading in.
Mata arrived at Stamford Bridge from Valencia in the 2011 summer transfer window and he made a telling impact during his first two seasons for the club by notching 17 goals and providing 30 assists from 69 league appearances for the club.
The Spanish playmaker established a reputation for being one of the Premier League’s most incisive talents in the final-third, but the arrival of Jose Mourinho took the sting out of his performances.
Under Mourinho’s stewardship Mata still managed to score 6 and assist 7 from 28 league appearances, but the general intensity of his performances appeared to drop due to the added defensive responsibility which was bestowed upon his shoulders.
Mata was then freed of the manacles of a rigid Mourinho system with a £40 million switch to Manchester United in 2014, although his reprieve was short-lived when the 3-time Premier League winner was brought in to restore the Red Devils to their former glory.
His reign is yet to breed the results which everybody associated with the club had hoped he would achieve, and some of his key attacking players are performing below that level which they are capable of, Mata included.
At 30-years-old and with less than one-year remaining on his current deal, Mata would be wise to pursue his career away from Old Trafford next season and, providing Mourinho remains in charge, it seems inevitable that he will allow his contract to run its course.
Mourinho’s inability to establish strong relationships with his players – particularly attacking-minded ones – is becoming increasingly problematic, and that long-standing issue which has affected Mata more than anyone else will force him to embark on a new challenge away from Old Trafford next summer.
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