Manchester United’s Juan Mata has congratulated his former team Chelsea “for the title they are about to win” after playing his first match at Stamford Bridge since his departure in January 2014.
The Spaniard played 70 minutes for United before being replaced by Adnan Januzaj as they went down 1-0 to José Mourinho’s side. That left Chelsea 10 points clear at the top, with victories in their next two matches against second-placed Arsenal and Leicester meaning they will win a first Premier League title in five years.
But despite United also retaining a slim mathematical chance of finishing top, Mata wrote in his latest blog post entitled ‘I feel proud’ that he thinks the title race is all but over.
“It was really moving to feel the people’s respect and affection, and I will always be grateful for that … To them and also to the players,” Mata wrote.
“I thank them for such affection and I congratulate them for the title they are about to win, because it’s almost done … It was nice to meet them and chat with them after the game, and also the club’s staff, doctors, physios, etc., and feel their respect and friendship.”
Having been named as Chelsea’s player of the year in his first two seasons at the club, Mata was sold to United for £37.1m. He initially struggled to make an impact, first under David Moyes and then when Louis van Gaal was appointed.
But two goals in the crucial victory over Liverpool last month have helped the 26-year-old hold down a regular place in the team and despite the disappointment of losing to Chelsea, he believes there is every reason to be positive about the club’s progress.
“I felt proud of the game the team had played, keeping the ball possession, controlling the game and creating chances to score, and all this at Stamford Bridge against the leader,” he wrote.
“As our manager said after the game, we were loyal to our football idea, and despite the score didn’t show that, if we keep playing like this there will be many more wins than defeats, I’m pretty sure of that. Besides, the team showed personality by playing that way against such a tough opponent, who gave no space in their half of the pitch and defended with so many players. Obviously, we also made some mistakes we have to learn from in the future. But overall that was my feeling about the game we had played: pride.”