Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata has opened up about returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since he was deemed surplus to requirements by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
Mata and his team-mates head to west London to take on the leaders on Saturday, with the Spaniard preparing for an emotional first appearance in front of the supporters who twice named him their player of the year.
The 26-year-old, who was sold to the Red Devils in January 2014 after falling out of favour under Mourinho, has played against Chelsea at Old Trafford since making the switch but is yet to experience running out of the Stamford Bridge tunnel as an opposition player.
In his personal blog on juanmata8.com he described Saturday’s fixture as another ‘final’, coming as it does hot on the heels of United’s 4-2 victory over bitter rivals Manchester City.
He said: “We are already thinking about our next ‘final’, a visit to the leader of the Premiership. Needless to say it is going to be a very special game for me.”
Mata added: “Going back to Stamford Bridge for the first time will bring me plenty of good memories.”
After a slow start to life in Manchester, Mata is now a rejuvenated figure under head coach Louis van Gaal. A brace in the 2-1 win at old enemies Liverpool last month saw his stock rise among fans, and his well-taken strike in the rout against City yesterday served to increase his popularity once more.
He is viewed as an integral part of van Gaal’s set-up and will be expected to retain a starting berth against Chelsea at the weekend, when the visitors can strengthen their bid for Champions League qualification.