Juan Mata will be dearly missed in the Manchester United locker room next season, yet Bruno Fernandes may be on the lookout for something the popular Spaniard has left on his peg.
At Old Trafford, Erik ten Hag is bringing change, and his planned renovation has already begun with three high-profile but expected departures. Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Mata have all been confirmed to depart the club when their contracts expire at the end of this month.
There hasn’t been a transfer fee for any of those players. They have, however, vacated coveted shirt numbers for possible new signings in addition to freeing up monies for the salary budget.
However, in the case of Mata and his number 8 shirt, this is only true if Fernandes does not arrive first. The Portuguese star expressed openly his intention to wear the number 8 jersey at some time during his United career shortly after his arrival from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020.
It was also the subject of some lighthearted banter last summer between Mata and Fernandes. Fernandes joked that removing the initial digit on his currently-assigned number 18 strip might have to wait another season after seeing Mata sign a 12-month extension.
Mata bids United farewell and will be remembered fondly by fans, the media, and his teammates, including Fernandes! Will his departure, however, result in a change in the starting lineup?
Fernandes, who signed a new five-year deal before Ten Hag was named, said why he chose number 18 when he joined United “There are numerous reasons behind the No. 18 ranking. It’s a number that appeals to me.
“I’ve played as No. 8 for the past three years because it’s the number my father wore as a player, it’s my birthday [date], and it’s the number I enjoy.
“My wife’s birthday is December 18th, and I remember seeing Paul Scholes play in it when I was a kid, so having this shirt and this number of an incredible player is something I will treasure. I’m in charge of a lot of things.”