Revealed: Manchester United star agreed to sit on the bench because of Cristiano Ronaldo

Juan Mata has explained how Cristiano Ronaldo convinced him to sign a contract at Manchester United even though he knew that bench duty beckoned.

The World Cup-winning Spaniard had made just nine Premier League starts for the Red Devils under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the season leading up to Ronaldo completing a sensational return to Old Trafford. Despite being linked with a move elsewhere, Mata agreed to extend his deal in order to work with the Portuguese superstar.

Juan Mata Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United

Mata has told FourFourTwo of not wanting to walk away from a potential challenge for domestic glory: “After so many years at the club, it would have hurt me to leave if United then won the Premier League. I didn’t want to miss that moment. I dreamed of celebrating a league title at Old Trafford.”

Mata added on why Ronaldo’s arrival in 2021 got him so excited, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner accustomed to competing for major honours: “I thought we could win the Premier League again. He had such high standards that he could drag the rest with him. I always thought that when it came to the 80th minute of a game, the ball had to go to him to win.

He always appeared in decisive moments. However, circumstances around him prevented him from getting more quality minutes in his second season. I connected with Cristiano, during many conversations. He’s a much closer person than people imagine.”

Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United

Ronaldo went empty-handed throughout his second stint at United, with his contract ripped up as he was released as a free agent in November 2022. Mata had already departed for Galatasaray by then, with the Red Devils still struggling to find the consistency that will put them in a position to claim a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.


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