Mata received a call-up from new manager Julen Lopetegui after being omitted from Spain’s Euro 2016 squad and, alongside De Gea, will travel to Belgium for a friendly on Thursday before facing Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier next Monday.
The 28-year-old was pictured taking the ball past De Gea in training, captioning his photo with the question: “Goal or not?”
Mata serves as one of the surprise packages of this season: it was presumed by most Manchester United fans that Jose Mourinho’s arrival signalled the end for Mata, but the midfielder, acting as a ball-playing right winger, has cemented himself in the 53-year-old’s XI, starting all three Premier League games so far.
However, numerous supporters, frustrated at the lack of game time awarded to Henrikh Mkhitaryan so far, have advocated the Spaniard’s omission from the starting XI. Indeed, Mkhitaryan’s influence off the bench against Hull was notably more potent than what Mata offered from the right hand side. The Armenian, unlike Mata, refused to be bogged down by a sturdy Hull back-line, finding pockets of space with his immense vision. Mata undoubtedly has his work cut out in keeping the talented 27-year-old out of the team.
On the flipside, De Gea has been as irreplaceable as ever.