Juan Mata on Unai Emery: He improved me as a player

Emery, who will be leading Villarreal against Manchester United in the Europa League final, had coached Mata during his time at Valencia.

Juan Mata celebrates his goal in a file photo; Credit: Twitter@manutd
By Karthik Raman | May 25, 2021 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Juan Mata urges Manchester United to be fully prepared when they take on Villarreal as he feels there will be “some kind of surprise” from Unai Emery’s side. Over a decade ago, the United midfielder has worked with Emery for three years during his time as a Valencia player. Ahead of their Europa League final against Villarreal, Mata said, “I improved a lot with him. I grew as a player and a person. I was quite young, around 21, 22, 23 years old.”

“He improved me as a player and made me feel important in Valencia, playing every single game. He’s a methodic manager, hard-working, professional, preparing for every single game like a final. We will have to be ready because I’m sure he’ll come up with something different, some kind of surprise from their team, tactically or from set-pieces.”

The match on Wednesday night in Gdansk, Poland will be Villarreal’s first ever major European final. “We have to be ready. I think it’s the biggest game in their history,” Mata said. “We need to realise that they will give everything and more, so we need to be prepared for that. Villarreal is a club that has been doing a lot of good things over the last 15 or 20 years. On and off the pitch, it’s a very well structured club.”

He feels that the current side under Emery is a “very well-organised team”. “If we talk now about the present, with Unai on the bench, it’s a very well-organised team with quality, with players that I know very well,” said the 33-year-old. “It’s difficult to play against his teams. I played with some of their players. Raul Albiol, centre-back, we played together in Valencia and the national team, [Dani] Parejo, great midfielder, Paco Alcacer, striker and very good finisher.

“They’ve got a great striker in Gerardo Moreno, they’ve got quality in the midfield, a very good centre-back in Pau Torres. Sergio Asenjo, one of the goalkeepers, was also my team-mate in the Spanish Under-21s. I know them very well, they’ve beaten good teams in this season’s Europa League, like Arsenal.”

It is not clear whether Juan Mata will be a part of the playing XI on Wednesday night. But one thing is for sure – he will play a crucial role in the training and dressing room to help others with what to expect from Unai Emery’s side.

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