Juan Mata appears to be on the way out at Manchester United, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.
It has been a hugely disappointing season for United, who are set to scrape sixth place ahead of West Ham, having finished second in last season's table.
Mata has spent much of the season on the sidelines, only making his first start of the season in United's final home game two weeks ago against Brentford. His current contract expires at the end of June, though it is still unconfirmed that the Spaniard will leave the club.
Speaking to the Athletic in an extended interview on Saturday, Mata spoke about his frustrations this season. He hinted that he believes there is a lack of "first-class" personnel at Old Trafford, and also appeared to question some of the man management from Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.
Juan Mata: Manchester United midfielder details frustrations with club
To say this season has been a let down for Manchester United would be a severe understatement. The club has gone from finishing second in the league and reaching a European final last year to being knocked out of all cup competitions by March and struggling to sixth place this season.
Despite the poor form of the squad, Spanish veteran Juan Mata was given precious little game time this season by either Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick. In recent weeks, he has worked his way back into Rangnick's thinking with some strong performances, not least against Brentford at the beginning of this month.
David de Gea showing his appreciation for Juan Mata at full-time ❤️ pic.twitter.com/j3LIieJU6N
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 3, 2022
Nonetheless, it has been a frustrating season for Mata and for United. Speaking to the Athletic this week, Mata laid bare his disappointment - and suggested some of the blame lies with the club's various managers not getting the best out of the players.
From a manager point of view, winning will come closer when you bring the best out of every single player in the squad; the ones who play more, the ones who play less.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that has happened this season. For me, that is a big problem, rather than the specifics of tactics or whatever.
I am not in the position of picking managers. What I do know is that being at Manchester United, this club needs first-class individuals for each department. That is how I understand Manchester United. This club should be top of the class in every department, on pitch or off. That is the only way I see this club competing for the biggest trophies.
When you think about Manchester United you think about the best level possible, as far as I understood football growing up. I don’t understand this club without having first-class individuals for each department.
United have gone through three managers this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked after a disappointing run of results early in the season, with Michael Carrick taking charge of three games in the run up to Christmas before the arrival of interim boss Ralf Rangnick. Mata says that the uncertainty caused by the managerial changes is something the players could have dealt with better, and that it impacted negatively on squad morale.
Though most United fans and pundits appear to have accepted that Mata will leave the club at the end of this season, he appears open to staying under Erik Ten Hag if the two are on the same page about their future plans.
The failure of United to kick on from their success last season has been a major disappointment for the players. Juan Mata says that, with the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, and Raphael Varane, he truly thought that this season could see the Premier League return to Old Trafford.
When we made the signings we made I genuinely felt, ‘We are gonna really compete to win the Premier League now’. That’s why I renewed, I wanted to be part of that.
One of the things I always say: winning a massive trophy with Manchester United would be an incredible feeling after being here for so many years, knowing the fans and everyone working in the club like I do.
That’s why the disappointment is so big now, because the expectations, at least for myself and I think many other people, were higher. We had come second, it felt that we could get there, right? But at the end of the day, we didn’t.
It's unlikely that Manchester United will contend for the Premier League title next season and, even if they do, it remains to be seen whether Juan Mata will even be a part of the squad.
Mata will certainly be remembered as one player who didn't realise his full potential at United, if he is to leave the club without a league medal.