Juan Mata’s release was always going to hit teammate David de Gea hard.
The two Spaniards have been close off the pitch since Mata joined De Gea in Manchester in 2014, and they were later joined by Ander Herrera.
United confirmed Mata’s departure earlier today (2/6), while Herrera left in 2019, leaving just De Gea of the trio remaining.
De Gea penned an emotional message to Mata after his exit, hailing him as the ‘ultimate professional’ and wishing him the best of luck in his next step.
De Gea leads tributes to Juan Mata
De Gea says he is thankful to have crossed paths with Mata, 34, who will officially be a free agent when his contract elapses on June 30.
De Gea’s message was echoed by teammate Diogo Dalot, who described Mata as a ‘legend’ in a short message paying tribute to the attacker.
Mata posted a short video message himself, recorded on the Old Trafford pitch, in which he thanked supporters for their backing over the years, even through ‘difficult times’.
Mata follows Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic and Lee Grant in leaving the club as a free agents. More players could depart through player sales.
Even with just those six players gone, United have saved around £44 million on the annual wage bill, a substantial figure.
One player who won’t be released is Dylan Levitt, with United triggering a one-year extension to his contract, although plans beyond that currently remain unclear regarding the midfielder.