Recent weeks have seen the 26-year-old Spaniard return to his best form and cast aside doubts that he has the credentials to compete with Europe's best.
It was widely agreed that the £37.1 million transfer of Juan Mata from Chelsea to Manchester United was a great move for the Spaniard, as the midfielder had clearly fallen out of favour with Jose Mourinho. Meanwhile, many Chelsea fans crossed their fingers and put their faith in the mercurial Portugese manager as the former crowd favourite was sold to a major rival.
Up in Manchester, David Moyes had struggled to find any momentum as the successor to Alex Ferguson's Old Trafford empire and the signing of Mata was his major investment in salvaging a disastrous season. The scramble to sign Marouane Fellaini on transfer deadline day in August 2013 had highlighted the club's failings in building on Alex Ferguson's squad, and the signing of Mata the following January was a significant move for the club.
Despite a reasonable run in Manchester United's remaining fixtures in the 2013-14 season, it was a disappointing campaign which saw Moyes replaced by Ryan Giggs for the final four games.
Under new manager Louis van Gaal, however, Mata has thrived of late, in a campaign that has seen the Red Devils return as the imposing outfit their fans have become accustomed to watching, culminating in likely Champions League qualification. At the heart of this have been a string of big signings, but looking at Mata's 2014-15 stats shows the contribution he has made:
|Position||Team||Mins Played||Goal Assist||Goals||Total Scoring Att||Ontarget Scoring Att||Total Pass||Accurate Pass||Appearances|
|Juan Mata||MF||Man Utd||1,831||4||8||25||10||1,163||1,046||27|
Mata's eight goals have been a key feature in Manchester United's season - scoring decisive strikes against Crystal Palace and Liverpool this season - but it is an outstanding pass percentage of 90 that has been the key to van Gaal's faith in Mata in recent weeks.
The Spaniard was voted as Manchester United's Player of the Month for March and anybody who scores a brace in a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield is bound to become a crowd favourite at Old Trafford. Now Mata faces a crunch game against Chelsea on Saturday, and a first return to Stamford Bridge where he will be looking to show Jose Mourinho what he let go so willingly last year.
Mata spoke about the Chelsea game on his personal blog shared on the Manchester United official website, saying: "Needless to say that it’s going to be a very special game for me. I already played against Chelsea in the first half of the championship, but going back to Stamford Bridge for the first time will bring me plenty of good memories, for sure."
Having already scored goals at Anfield and the crucial third in Sunday's 4-2 derby win over Manchester City, Mata is now looking to add another major scalp as his Old Trafford career finally takes off.