Manchester United’s Spanish star feared one thing more than any other when he first came to England – the terrible English food.
Everyone had warned the World Cup winner that it was just plates of dreadful stodge and nothing like the fine fare he had grown up with in his home town of Oviedo in northern Spain.
But when he arrived in England, Mata told Footballers Lives in an exclusive video that he had a shock – and found he actually LIKED the food.
“When I first arrived in England I didn’t have very high expectations of English food because everyone told me that the food is not so good, but I have to say I’ve tried a lot of English food and I think it’s good,” said Mata, who joined Chelsea in 2011 and Manchester United three years later.
“It’s very good. It’s better than expectations. I was happily surprised about English food.”
And like most Englishmen, Mata likes nothing more than the traditional Sunday pleasures of a roast dinner and a trip to a country pub.
“On Sundays I like to try the Sunday roast. I really like the pie, beef pie – I think you have very good meat in England and very good fish. Desserts are good and the cakes.
“And I like to go to English countryside pubs where they have home-made food and I really enjoy it – so I cannot complain about English food.
“And that’s not a fake answer, it’s a real one!”
But Mata draws the line at one staple of English cuisine.
“The one thing I didn’t like too much is the fish and chips. It’s very famous, but it’s a bit oily. But I think it’s very good for each country to have their own culture and own food, and England does, and it’s a good one. I think English food is very English and the people feel very proud of their food.”
The habit that he cannot get used to, though, is how early the English eat.
“One thing that surprised me was the timings. In Spain we do everything later. We eat later, we have lunch later, dinner later. We have things in an easier way. But here in England you have to get used to it. You have lunch at 12-12.30. You have dinner at 5.30-6-6.30. In Spain you have dinner at 9-9.30. First of all that was the thing that shocked me.”