Juan Mata has expressed his fondness for his former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal – but revealed he found him extremely ‘scary’ when they first met.
The Spaniard arrived at Old Trafford from Chelsea in £40million deal in January 2014 when David Moyes was in charge, but the Scot was sacked just three months later after a torrid run of form.
Van Gaal was subsequently appointed and Mata said he was hesitant and slightly nervous when he first met the veteran manager.
“He was scary. I tell you,” Mata told United’s official podcast. “He was a very nice man; a very, very nice man; very genuine and very sensible.
“You wouldn’t expect that, but he was very sensible. He could get emotional and was crying sometimes, when he was speaking about important matters.
“When he found the right values, the right football, he got emotional.”
Despite being taken aback by Van Gaal’s direct questioning, the 32-year-old said the Dutchman was ‘warm and genuine’ once he got to know him.
“I arrive in the room and it was him, Ryan Giggs and a bottle of Rioja, red wine, with three glasses,” Mata continued. “He was like: ‘Do you want a drink?’ and I was: ‘No, no, I’m fine’.
“He had a drink and said: ‘Tell me who you are’. I mean my name is Juan, I am 26, I play football. ‘No, no. Tell me who you are as a man. Do you have family? What do you find important in life?
“From that moment, he can look scary face to face and sometimes goes close to you but, after that, he was a very warm and genuine man.
“He was more than a football manager with tactics, he is a great human being and I learned a lot from him.”
Van Gaal spent two seasons at the helm, presiding over United’s FA Cup final victory over Crystal Palace in May 2016 – before being axed just two days later.