SINGAPORE — They were three disparate characters at Manchester United: one is arguably the current “face” of the club, one is a long-serving veteran and one is a highly-rated newcomer.
So when Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Aaron Wan-Bissaka attended a meet-and-greet session organised by adidas at The Float@Marina Bay on Sunday (21 July), they projected three entirely different moods in handling the media.
Pogba, the subject of constant transfer talk after he hinted recently at seeking a fresh challenge elsewhere, decided not to engage the journalists at the event, preferring to be in the comfort of shooting promotional videos for adidas.
Wan-Bissaka was clearly not at ease with the intense glare of the fans and the media following his recent transfer from Crystal Palace. The 21-year-old English right-back gave one-line answers to most of the questions and looked as if he could not wait to get away from the media eye.
Veteran provided the thoughtful answers
It was Mata, the veteran attacking midfielder who was at the club since 2014, who took upon the responsibility to provide thoughtful answers to even the most mundane questions from fans and media.
And the 31-year-old Spaniard had a ready advice for the new signings and young upstarts who have just started their careers at Man United, “I will encourage every player to know what it feels like to play for this club, what it is like to be a Manchester United player.
“We do have young players who are hungry, full of ambition and willing to put in a lot of hard work on the pitch. But I think it's also important for every player that comes to the club to know where we are, and to know what we represent, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
Mata had recently signed a new two-year contract extension with United, and revealed that one of the reasons he is staying on is to help revive the Red Devils fortunes, after the club could only finish sixth in the English Premier League last season.
“We know that last season wasn’t good enough, and we have to raise our levels to challenge for trophies next season,” he said.
“My motivation to stay on is to try and win big trophies with this incredible club, and to keep having this great feeling of playing for Manchester United.”
Newcomer ill-at-ease with media attention
While Mata fielded questions during the media scrum without much fuss, Wan-Bissaka looked uncomfortable from the get go, frequently eyeing his minder who then indicated that the player would not be answering the preceding question.
And on those questions in which he decided to answer, he mumbled softly through his terse replies.
So what convinced him to move from Crystal Palace to Man United? “It’s a challenge, and it’s a chance for me to improve as a player.”
What are you most impressed about your new club? “Everyone here works hard, everyone wants to get the best out from me.”
Has it always been your character to not talk much? “Yeah, I don’t really speak a lot. I just like to get on the pitch and play.”
At least he tried to contend with the media attention. Pogba merely sauntered into the media room, posed for photos and then walked away without speaking a word.
Thrilling fans with football skills
At least the trio whole-heartedly participated in the ensuing meet-and-greet event, thrilling more than 1,000 fans who braved the afternoon sun at The Float@Marina Bay.
Together with local footballers such as Fandi Ahmad and Jacob Mahler, they juggled a sepak takraw ball during a “Keepy Uppy” challenge and combined to perform a freestyle session, much to the fans’ delight.