Juan Mata has already made it clear that Bruno Fernandes is his perfect replacement ahead of the Spaniard’s likely exit this summer.
Mata has been a United player for over eight years after arriving on a shocking £ 40million transfer from Chelsea in January 2014. The playmaker became a fan favorite thanks to his elegance and class on the pitch with 51 goals and 47 goals. assists in his 280 appearances to date.
However, it seems that his time in Manchester is finally ending after the end of the season. Mata signed on to a 12-month extension last summer, but now his contract is again about to expire and a new one seems unlikely this time.
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Despite always looking sharp when given rare minutes, Mata has barely sniffed this season, playing just 225 minutes of football over eight games. The 33-year-old’s playing time has been steadily declining ever since Fernandes was brought in from Sporting in January 2019 and instantly became one of the club’s most important players.
In his first half alone, the Portuguese star snatched 20 goal contributions in 22 games, and although his production has dropped somewhat this season as United have struggled, he already has 49 goals and 39 assists for the club in just 121 games. It is not surprising that Mata, or any other offensive midfielder, has not fought for playing time since.
United effectively replaced Mata years before his expected departure, and he even identified Fernandes as the perfect man to do it himself. When asked about his close friend and compatriot Ander Herrera’s exit back in 2020, Mata admitted he missed the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder, but that was offset by being able to play alongside Fernandes.
“I miss him (Herrera) on the pitch but also in the locker room and outside,” Mata told Man United’s official website in April 2020. “We lived in the same area.” We saw each other after training for lunch, dinner, watching football together, so of course I miss him.
“When you understand football the same way, I think it’s fun to play with someone like him or with someone like Bruno now. You always miss them when you’re not playing with someone like that.”
Fernandes is set to become a crucial part of United’s future in the years to come. The Portuguese recently signed a new long-term contract to keep him at Old Trafford until at least 2026 with the option of an additional 12 months.
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