Jose Mourinho has played down reports Juan Mata could leave Manchester United and insists the midfielder was not unhappy at his treatment during the Community Shield.
Mourinho deemed the Spaniard surplus to requirements at Chelsea, selling him to United, and raising doubts over the 28-year-old’s Old Trafford future.
The pair’s relationship was again in the spotlight after United’s 2-1 win over Leicester at Wembley, where Mourinho sent Mata on in the 63rd minute only to withdraw him in injury time – a rarity in top-level football and a blow to the ego for the player involved.
The new Red Devils boss explained afterwards it was merely Mata’s size – and the expectation of Leicester playing long balls in the closing stages – that dictated the decision and says there is no problem between the pair.
“He was very happy that he was my first choice to come on to the pitch in a difficult moment of the game for us after we conceded a goal,” he said on the eve of his first Premier League match in charge of United away to Bournemouth.
“At that moment Mata was the first player to be called up to play and played 25 minutes. He was really happy with his contribution.”
Mourinho went on to suggest that if anyone had cause to be disgruntled it was summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was Mata’s replacement.
“The one that was not happy was Mkhitaryan because he came on for one minute and didn’t touch the ball,” said Mourinho.
“So in your analysis you went the wrong way because the one who was upset was Mkhitaryan. Mata was very happy.”
Mourinho’s arrival, alongside £89million world record signing Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Mkhitaryan has seen expectations around United rocket.
After three disappointing years under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal’s stewardship, optimism among fans is peaking.
But Mourinho has warned not to expect his side to be a well-oiled machine in the early days of the campaign.
Late arrivals from Euro 2016 and an unsatisfactory pre-season tour to China, during which a high-profile friendly against rivals Manchester City was cancelled, mean he is not yet happy with the amount of time he has had with the squad.
“I think it’s more difficult now, especially because pre-seasons are shorter and pre-seasons are less about football and more other areas,” he said in a thinly-veiled critique of the Far East trip.
“You cannot start like a train. You can start good and in condition to win the match…but not at the highest intensity. It’s not possible.
“I want to go into the Premier League, day one, with 33 training sessions. But half of these players are not here because the players I started with are the players that are going on loan, other players who are going to the under-21 team and the under-18 team.
“Instead of 33 training sessions, which would be the normal situation 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I have guys who are going into the Premier League day one with eight training sessions.”