Manchester United star Juan Mata has taken a swipe at some of his team-mates for ‘not meeting the club’s standards’ this season, and he insists ‘the culture must be reset’ at Old Trafford following a dismal campaign.
The Red Devils were one of the favourites for the Premier League title at the start of the season after securing high profile signings Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, but the team have failed to deliver consistency and failed to even produce a top four finish.
Their poor form saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked from his role, while interim boss Ralf Rangnick was unable to make much of an impact to life the team, who have stumbled to a mediocre finish to the campaign.
Mata – who has been at Old Trafford for the last nine seasons and was expected to leave the club on a free transfer this summer – has been left unimpressed by the attitude of some players and said the squad had fallen short of the high standards expected of this famous football club.
‘It’s clear that on the pitch, we have made many mistakes,’ Mata told the Athletic.
‘We could have also dealt better with certain situations that were happening in the club, managers changing, negative things. I think at the end of the day we let that maybe affect too much the energy of Carrington.
‘Certain standards were not met. Whether that’s attitude, level of training, off the pitch, which doesn’t include players, I think we all agree, if we are completely honest and speak with certain people at the club, we haven’t been good enough. And so that’s where I think we could learn. Also there were certain things that were out of our control, which we shouldn’t let affect us.
‘Naturally you feel that way when you can see certain things are not good enough. But we shouldn’t have let things happen. Many circumstances can affect certain behaviours. If you don’t have a solid base, when bad things come, it is difficult to stay all together.’
Erik ten Hag is set to begin work as United’s new manager on Monday, and the Dutchman has a huge job on his hands to transform the mentality of a broken squad.
Mata has called for a ‘reset’ within United to change their ‘culture’ – and brutally stated that anyone who is not ‘up to the task’ should leave Old Trafford.
‘We need a reset in the culture of the club. That’s how I feel. The standards, what it means to represent this club to any player, what entitles you to play for Manchester United, what is expected on the pitch and off the pitch.
‘Many things that need to be clear – this is Manchester United and anyone who doesn’t meet those standards is not up to the task and should not be here. That’s as clear as I can be.’
United’s turbulent season has had few bright sparks, though the form of Ronaldo has given the team some highlights – with the Portuguese ace netting 24 goals to mark his fairytale return to Old Trafford.
But players who were expected to shine, such as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes, have not managed to produce regular quality, and Mata pointed out that the club’s biggest problem this season has been the failure to get the best out of their top 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,’ he added. ‘And, 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.
He said United were lacking ‘top class individuals in every department’, with rivals Man City and Liverpool ahead of them with regards to squad depth and quality players in their squads.
Ten Hag is set to plot his summer business when he gets to work at Carrington and has identified a number of targets – including Barcelona’s Frenkie De Jong – as well as a clearout of up to ten players.
‘I am not in the position of picking managers,’ Mata goes on. ‘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.
‘That’s what I hope in the near future, otherwise you cannot compete with clubs who are doing very good things with a certain identity and professionalism in the way they make decisions. They are getting the results they deserve because of doing the right things.
‘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.’