Juan Mata could face his former club Chelsea for the last time in his career when the Blues head to Old Trafford on Thursday.
The Manchester United midfielder is out of contract at the end of June and his eight-year stay at the Theatre of Dreams looks to be coming to an end.
Mata, who will turn 34 when United face Thomas Tuchel’s side on Thursday, signed a one-year extension with the Red Devils last summer, but he has barely featured this season.
The Spanish international has only started two games for the Reds this season and they came in the Carabao Cup and the Champions League dead rubber against Young Boys.
Mata had to wait until April to make his first Premier League appearance of the season, but he has come off the bench in three of our last four games.
He will be hoping to feature against Tuchel’s men on Thursday and say his goodbyes to the Chelsea fans.
With United’s Champions League hopes looking done and dusted, Ralf Rangnick is more likely to hand Mata a sentimental appearance given United have nothing worth playing for, aside from pride.
However, it won’t only be Mata who could potentially be facing his former club for the last time, Nemanja Matic, who had two stints at Stamford Bridge, will also leave Old Trafford on a free transfer in the summer.
But we are going to focus our efforts on looking at Mata’s record against Chelsea throughout his career which has seen him win the Champions League, World Cup, FA Cup and European Championships…
First meeting came with Valencia
The midfield technician made his first appearance against Chelsea with La Liga giants Valencia back in 2007.
Mata, managed by Ronald Koeman at the time, came off the bench in the latter stages of the 0-0 draw at the bridge against a Chelsea side that were managed by Avram Grant.
The creative Spanish international went on to score 46 goals and provide 52 assists from 174 games for the Mestalla side before signing for Chelsea in the summer of 2011 for £23.5m (BBC Sport).
Mata signs for Manchester United
After going from a key player to a bit part player following the arrival of Jose Mourinho for the second time at Chelsea, Mata made the big-money move to United in January 2014.
Donning the number eight jersey, Mata became David Moyes’ second and final high-profile signing following the summer arrival of Marouane Fellaini.
Mata’s £37.1m move was a record transfer deal for the Red Devils. The left-footer moved from west London with 32 goals and 58 assists from 135 matches.
Record against Chelsea
Mata first faced Chelsea in a United shirt in October 2014 when Robin van Persie scored a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford to cancel out Didier Drogba’s opener.
The diminutive creator started four consecutive games against Chelsea, but he missed United’s first win against their rivals, since he joined the club, through injury in April 2017 when Mourinho was at the helm at Old Trafford.
Mata had to wait until February 2019 to get the better of Chelsea when he had featured in a game. During Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dream run as interim boss, the Reds beat Maurizio Sarri’s Blues 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, in the FA Cup fifth-round.
United’s number eight has scored one goal against Chelsea in 12 meetings throughout his career and that came in April 2019 when he scored the opener in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
Luke Shaw latched onto a lofted pass by Romelu Lukaku and the left-back’s cutback fell perfectly into the path of Mata, who slotted the ball home with his weaker right-foot.
Mata’s last start against Chelsea came when games were being played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That game at Old Trafford in October 2020 finished 0-0.
In the 12 matches against his former side, Mata has won two, lost three and drawn seven. He will be hoping to celebrate his birthday with a 13th outing against Chelsea on Thursday.
Several La Liga clubs have made enquiries about signing the Manchester United attacker this summer, according to the Athletic.
But unless he signs with one of Spain’s Champions League sides, a 14th appearance against Chelsea looks very unlikely.
From 281 appearances for Manchester United, Juan Mata has 51 goals and 47 assists to his name.