The road to Russia 2018 begins

Hi everyone,

This time I’m writing to you from Leon, a beautiful town in Northern Spain close to Asturias, my home. As you know, this Monday we start the qualifying stage for the 2018 World Cup that will take place in Russia and we notice there’s a lot of excitement around, both in the team and the fans. Last Wednesday we played a friendly game against Belgium in Brussels and the team left a very good impression. I think we showed character and we put into practice all the ideas that we had been working on before the game. Everything was just perfect.

The time goes by and some key players of our football style have left the national team; however, we still have many footballers in Spain that are able to take the initiative of the game and that’s the idea. Obviously, in modern football there are many aspects that you just can’t overlook, but we want to lead the game, keep the ball possession and be offensive. Our new manager, Julen Lopetegui, is very clear in that regard and his first few conversations with us have been very positive.

People in Leon have given us a very warm welcome. I never get tired of thanking all of you for your words and support. Wherever we play in Spain we feel a lot of affection from the crowd and that’s why we always want to play well and give some good football and wins to our fans. This qualifying stage is going to be very long and difficult. Our group is one of the toughest ones in Europe, but we know that we can make it to the final draw and our only goal is to be in the World Cup in two years time.

Many times you ask me about the atmosphere inside the team, both in Manchester United and here. With Spain, for instance, we travelled by train from Madrid to Leon this Sunday and the journey was as usual. Some guys were playing online video games with each other (making fun of everything), some others were playing cards non-stop, a few here and there watching movies or series, and the rest of the players either chatting, reading or even having a nap… Although these days, if you do so, you are likely to find a picture of yourself fully asleep posted on a team-mate’s social network, so you always have to keep an eye open… And that’s how our journey was.

After the international break, there is a game coming next Saturday that I’m sure many of you are waiting for: the Manchester derby. All of us are fully aware that this is a very special game, yet we have to understand that these are three points and don’t get too crazy. Both teams have started the Premiership well and the expectations are high, as everybody can imagine. David de Gea and me have been joking with Nolito and Silva in the last few days, although the truth is we are now focused on the games with the national team. After that, we will have plenty of time to think about this exciting derby.

Have a nice week. Hugs!

Juan Mata


PS: This week I read with special interest Totti’s farewell letter. It’s a moving text that explains very well the importance of the family in every athlete’s career. He’s a football legend and he will always be remembered.

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