Juan Mata waves goodbye to Manchester United fans after Crystal Palace defeat

Juan Mata waved goodbye to the travelling Manchester United fans following the 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

In Ralf Rangnick’s last game in interim charge of the Red Devils, the Spaniard came off the bench to replace Hannibal Mejbri on the hour mark against the Eagles.

The 34-year-old’s contract at Old Trafford expires at the end of June and Mata’s gesture at the end of the game in Croydon suggests his eight-and-a-half year stay at the Theatre of Dreams will come to an end.

While waving goodbye to the travelling United contingent, United’s number eight was seen tapping the club’s badge on the shirt.

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As little as Mata has played in recent years, he’s an exemplary role model and one of football’s good guys.

His one-year contract extension last summer was baffling and while he’s great for the dressing room and the younger players to learn from, the club needs to look forward and focus on nurturing talents like Hannibal.

Mata had said that he could stay at Manchester United and had planned to talk with new manager Erik ten Hag over his future.

Photo by Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images

But waving goodbye to the United fans suggests Mata is ready to embark on a new chapter as he enters the twilight stages of his career.

After being signed by David Moyes from Chelsea for £37.1m in January 2014, Mata has made 284 appearances for the Red Devils, from which he has scored 51 goals and provided 47 assists.

Mata hadn’t featured in the Premier League this season before April, but he featured in seven of United’s last games as our dreadful season finished on a whimper.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the classy playmaker return to the club in some capacity when he calls time on his playing career.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.