LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has challenged Juan Mata to prove him wrong on the pitch for overlooking the Spaniard’s claims and preferring Brazilian Oscar as his number one playmaker.
Mourinho was quoted in Saturday’s British newspapers saying Mata, Chelsea’s player of the year for the last two seasons, had to adapt to the way the Portuguese wanted the team to play.
The former Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto manager also made it clear Oscar was his first-choice midfield orchestrator.
“I hope he (Mata) tells me on the pitch, ‘You are wrong, I am the best and I have to play every game’,” Mourinho told reporters after Chelsea beat West London neighbours Fulham 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to return to the top of the Premier League.
”I would love that. That is to be professional. My idea is that he is a top kid and a very good professional and I‘m waiting for a professional reaction.
“History doesn’t play. The past is the past and you have to be judged on what you do now,” added Mourinho after Chelsea ended a dismal run of three consecutive defeats in three different competitions.
Fan favourite Mata has featured little this season and he did not even merit a place on the bench on Saturday.
Asked how the Spaniard reacted to his exclusion, Mourinho replied: ”He took it the way I want. He trained this morning and my assistant told me he trained very, very hard so at the start the answer is very good.
”I gave Juan the chance to play from the beginning against Aston Villa and against Everton and I also gave him 35 minutes (as a substitute) against Basel - it’s not the same as say Michael Essien.
”I have not played Essien for one single minute and I left him off our Champions League squad list. The point is that I have my options but the thing I most love in football is when my players prove me wrong.
“If Juan proves that I am wrong then I will be the happy one,” Mourinho added with a smile, “because I want him to be fantastic.”
Earlier, the Chelsea manager gave a heavy hint that the skilful Mata would have to improve his defensive work in order to win a regular place in the team.
The 25-year-old Spaniard will get an instant opportunity to change Mourinho’s opinion of him when he plays against third-tier Swindon Town in the League Cup third round on Tuesday.
”The people who didn’t play today are going to play,“ said Mourinho. ”Juan, Essien, David Luiz, Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta.
“We will have to work on other things in training tomorrow to work the team that is going to play. Now we have a period of four consecutive away matches against Swindon, Tottenham, Norwich and Steaua Bucharest so we have to prepare the best we can.”
Chelsea’s stay at the top of the Premier League could be brief as rivals Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all have the chance to overtake them on Sunday.
”Today we are top, tomorrow probably we are not top,“ said Mourinho. ”The important thing is to be there, where United are, where Arsenal are, where Tottenham are.
”Some of them started the Premier League in a brilliant way, we started in a bad way and we are there, that’s good for us.
“I read it was a disaster. All the teams lost, every one of us lost a game, and it looks like for the others to lose is a normal thing and for us it’s the end of the world. But that’s fine by me,” said Mourinho. (Editing by Ken Ferris)