Special day, match day

Hi everyone,

Today is a special day. There’s a game to play and it takes place at Old Trafford. We don’t use to play on Mondays so I’d like to tell you what we do on a match day…

Well, not all the match days are the same. First of all, this one is at home, our great stadium, and in the evening. That allows us sometimes to sleep in our homes and meet up in the morning, when we will be absolutely focused on the game. Typically, these days I try to sleep as much as I can. It’s not always easy, for sure, but it’s good for your body to rest at the end of the week and recharge your batteries right before the adrenaline rush of the competition.

You have a good breakfast (it doesn’t mean necessarily to eat a lot: in my case it’s a coffee, juice, toasts and a banana) and you meet up with your team-mates at the hotel to prepare the game… You may talk about whatever in the morning, but the evening game is in everybody’s minds… Then, we get mentally ready for the game, each of us with our own tricks or routines. After a few hours of rest, we have a pre-game talk at the hotel. At that point we are already aware that our happiness that day and in the next few days will depend on what happens on the pitch. You start to visualise what might happen during the game, without becoming too obsessed though, and three hours before the kick-off you have the pre-game meal (in my case it’s always brown pasta with grated cheese and chicken breast, a banana and a coffee). Then a shower, another pre-game talk… and off to the stadium.

It’s time to go to Old Trafford. Some players are ready quite early because they don’t find any other way to calm their nerves, and some others wait for the very last minute to go down to the hall. I’m the latter. The route to the stadium on the bus is short, and it seems even shorter because your are focused on your thoughts, with different ideas and plays coming to your mind… Once you are at the stadium, the minutes just fly. In the dressing room, each of us have our own routine (in some cases it’s almost a superstition). Then we step onto the pitch to warm up, have a talk in the dressing room, see the fans taking their seats, hear the music through the speakers before the kick-off (by the way, I love the music they play at Old Trafford ? )… Everything goes by very quickly until the big moment arrives: we gather at the tunnel and we step onto that wonderful place of the Theatre of Dreams. You can hear the people, but you try to stay focused on what you have to do, on trying to have a good start, with intensity, but enjoying as well.

So this is basically what we are going to do this Monday, when we play against Stoke. We come from a very positive week in Dubai, where we have felt very comfortable during the training sessions and, in particular, we have spent time together off the pitch. That’s important to me. It’s like a small version of the pre-season, allowing you to get to know your team-mates better, and it can be very good for us during the intense few months ahead.

In Spain there were good games to close the first leg of the championship. Real Madrid’s defeat leaves a situation on the table that is quite unusual, with Valencia and Atlético ahead and the two of them adding a lot of points in a very even competition this year. In February the Champions will be back and I think we will see the competitive Real Madrid that we all know. Lastly, Barcelona has performed at a very high level and that’s why they are the “winter champions”, which has no value but comes to show the level of their performance.

Aside from football, this week I’m going to keep an eye on the Australian Open and the Handball European Championship (I’m really hopeful about the Spanish team). Also on the Dakar, where Carlos Sainz is showing great fighting spirit and I think all the participants should be praised for what they’re doing. Many of them are still on the race despite being injured or having their vehicles damaged.

I hope we can get the three points tonight. Have a nice week. Hugs,

Juan Mata


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