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Juan Mata Is The Antithesis Of Personal Branding

While Manchester United scour the planet for big-money signings, Juan Mata quietly delivers again and again.

You could be forgiven for forgetting that, at the age of 24, Juan Mata had already achieved the remarkable feat of winning World Cup, European Championship and Champions League titles. The diminutive Spaniard, now 28, manages to avoid the public eye, and the attentions of defenders, with a cerebral approach that wins plaudits without approaching the levels of adulation that his surrounding cast receives.

Mata’s general perception was perhaps best exemplified by his sale to Manchester United in January of 2014. After being named Chelsea’s player of the season for two consecutive years, Mata wasn’t deemed a “fundamental” player by Jose Mourinho and was sold for £37.1 million. 

But time and time again, Mata has proven why he’s an indispensable footballer with qualities that very on the planet possess. Mata’s vision, passing and mobility to get forward and unbalance the gridlock between attack and defense make him an impact performer.

In Mata’s 15 Premier League appearances this campaign, he’s never played a full 90 minutes. In the matches he’s come closest, United have been at their best — their 4-1 demolition of Leicester City and their 1-1 draw with Arsenal when Olivier Giroud scored an equalizer at the death.

On Tuesday, Mata put in a superb display to put United on the brink of the EFL Cup final. He scored the opening goal in the Red Devil’s 2-0 victory over Hull City and tormented Hull with his passing and movement throughout.

Mata isn’t able to grab games by the scruff of the neck like his teammate Paul Pogba, nor will he burst by markers with virtuoso dribbling like his former teammate Eden Hazard.

What Mata offers, like the man himself, is more subtle. If Mata can make an impact in Manchester United’s next match — the all-engulfing showstopper that is United versus Liverpool — another historic accolade will be added to his unsung profile.