Juan Mata Talks Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Says Manchester United 'Have to Improve'

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2019

Manchester United's Spanish midfielder Juan Mata (L) talks with Manchester United's  Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (R) after going off injured during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on February 24, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has said manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told his players of the standards he expects them to reach in the upcoming campaign. 

The Red Devils ended last season with a whimper, taking just two points from their final five Premier League games and finishing in sixth place in the table.

It means this summer is crucial for United in terms of preparations for 2019-20. Mata said the Red Devils boss got the group together for a discussion about the campaign ahead on the first day of pre-season, per David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror:

"We had a meeting on the first day in which the manager and the staff spoke about what they expect from us, what they expect from Manchester United players.

"... Since then, they're trying to help the players, trying to improve in the way they want us to play and it's all fine so far. 

"I would like to say thank you to the fans, because last season was not easy for any of us and for them also. I have to say thank you because they helped us in the difficult moments. After that, all I can say is that we'll try our best to make them proud. We know that we have to improve. We have to set ourselves higher standards and demand more from each other if we want to improve."

Speaking to the media, Solskjaer said that despite the team's issues in the previous campaign, United should be looking to win trophies in the upcoming season:

Although the Red Devils have already spent big money on the acquisitions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, Solskjaer will need more from those already at the club if United are going to compete for honours.

Last season, a number of key players were inconsistent. David De Gea, usually so dependable, made some crucial errors late in the campaign, while Paul Pogba's productivity often masked weakness in his general play. Up top, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial only showed intermittent flashes of quality.

Mata tends to perform to a similar level whenever he steps on to the field, and while he may not be a first-team regular next term, that consistency was likely one of the reasons why United handed the Spaniard a new contract.

When he agreed the deal, Solskjaer spoke about the role the 31-year-old can play off the field too:

While Mata may be a little past his best, he is versatile, intelligent and productive when he takes to the field. Whether it's as a rotation option or an impact substitute, he can still have a big part to play at Old Trafford next season.

For Solskjaer, at the start of his first full season as head coach at United, having such a dependable player available will be important as he seeks to move the Red Devils back into the Premier League's elite bracket.

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