As Manchester United plunged deeper into crisis with Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at West Ham , Juan Mata has claimed it is “impossible” for those managers following Sir Alex Ferguson.
In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United are on their fourth permanent boss since Ferguson retired in 2013, following short-lived stints by David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
Despite spending £892million in the post-Ferguson era, United, currently eighth in the Premier League, are further away than ever from challenging for the title they have won a record 20 times.
Mata, who has played under all four United managers since Ferguson, gives a frank assessment of them all and provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight as the world’s biggest club struggles to get back to the top in his new book “Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer” .
“Both teams line up, the referee and his team leading the way, and only seconds before I step out on to the Old Trafford pitch, someone touches my shoulder from behind.
‘Good luck and welcome Juan, enjoy this club, it’s just incredible, you’ll see’.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, manager of Cardiff at that time, was welcoming me to his ‘home’. The place where he was – is – a legend.
“Fast forward some years now – almost five years, to be specific – and this anecdote obviously becomes significantly more important.
“On December 19, 2018, Ole was unveiled as our new manager. Coincidence, fate, call it whatever you like, but that moment in the tunnel came back to my mind straight away.
“After the first meeting we had with Ole as a manager, I have realised how much Manchester United means to him.
“Of course, and looking back now, I should have realised straight away in 2014, when what he really meant by his words was: ‘Welcome to United, Juan, the place where I belong, my home, the best club in the world.’
“With the arrival of Ole, and since his announcement as permanent manager, the club starts a new era; an era that hopefully will be successful in terms of trophies, style of play, and above all, bringing back the excitement, pride and happiness for all United fans around the world.
“There are many cases where an ex-player becomes a manager with time. It normally starts by coaching youngsters in academies, then through reserve teams or smaller clubs in lower leagues, to gain some experience of managing groups and leadership.
“Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Ronald Koeman, Zinedine Zidane, Julen Lopetegui, Ernesto Valverde, Mauricio Pochettino, Antonio Conte and Ole are just some examples of that process. But having been a fantastic player does not make you a great coach. Not at all.
“Experience definitely adds something really important, but seen from my point of view, becoming a manager has more to do with your understanding of the game, your personality, your ability to communicate, convince and motivate, and your work ethic, than your experience as a football player. You need to be a leader.”
Juan Mata is proud to support Common Goal which aims to unite the global football community in tackling the greatest social challenges of our time. He is giving 99 per cent of his proceeds from this book to this cause. Why 99 per cent? Read the book to find out . . . ‘Juan Mata: Suddenly A Footballer’ is on sale in all good bookshops from September 26th.