The Spaniard has provided an insight into the Dutch director’s process behind the scenes, describing him as a”good human being”.
Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata has opened up on his very first meeting with Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford, admitting that the trainer originally came across as”scary” until they became acquainted.
Mata finished a 37 million ($44m) move to Old Trafford from Chelsea in January 2014, getting the second signing of David Moyes’ ill-fated reign in the club.
The Scot was relieved of his managerial responsibilities three months later amid a run of disappointing results, and United turned into a seasoned tactician with an impressive CV built up during spells at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Van Gaal signed a contract with the Red Devils and instantly set about stamping his own mark on the squad, dipping into the transfer market when tinkering with unique formations in pre-season.
Mata remembers being intimidated by the Dutchman after being called into his office for introductions, but states that first impressions quickly dissipated to show a”warm and real man”.
“I arrive in the room and it was him, Ryan Giggs and a bottle of Rioja, red wine, with three glasses,” the Spanish playmaker told United’s official podcast.
“He was like: ‘Do you want a drink?’ And that I had been:’No, no, I’m fine’. He needed a drink and said:’Tell me that you are’. I mean my name is Juan, I’m 26, I play soccer. ‘No, no. Tell me who you are as a person. Have you got a family? What do you find important in life?
“From this moment, he can seem frightening face to face and occasionally goes close to you but, then, he was a really warm and genuine man. He was a soccer manager with tactics, he’s an excellent human being and I learned a lot from him.”
Mata added on how Van Gaal frequently became”emotional” when discussing his core values: “He was scary. I tell you. He was a really wonderful guy; a very, very wonderful man; very real and very thoughtful. You wouldn’t expect that, but that he was very sensible.
“He could get psychological and was crying sometimes when he had been talking about important matters. When he found the perfect values, the perfect soccer, he got emotional.”
Mata is presently self-isolating at home along with the rest of his United team-mates amid the coronavirus pandemic that has called a halt to the 2019-20 campaign.
The 31-year-old put pencil to paper on a new two-year contract at Old Trafford last summer and has since played an integral role in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad as the Red Devils struggle for a return to the Champions League.