Juan Mata’s contract at Manchester United has been extended for another year and he has a key role to play, according to manager Jose Mourinho.
The Spain playmaker was in the final six months of the deal he signed when he joined the club from Chelsea in 2014 but United had the option of keeping him for an extra season.
That option has now been triggered, with the 29-year-old now committed to the Old Trafford club until the summer of 2019.
Asked if the contract had been extended, Mourinho said: “Yes it was. Last week or something like that.”
There was speculation about Mata’s future when Mourinho took charge at United in 2016. Mourinho was manager at Chelsea when Mata was allowed to leave Stamford Bridge in a £37.1million deal four years ago.
Mourinho said on Tuesday: “Mata is very important. He is another one, big story when I arrived one and a half years ago – ‘Mata in trouble, in trouble, in trouble’.
“Now he’s getting an extension of one more year. (He is) an important player for me, an important player for the club, an important player for the other players.”
Mourinho has also revealed that United are hopeful of agreeing a new contract with midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who present deal expires in the summer.
With Michael Carrick retiring at the end of the campaign, losing Fellaini would leave a shortage of midfielders.
Mourinho said: “If Marouane leaves, yes we have two gaps there, so let’s see what happens.
“In relation to Marouane the good thing is that he would like to stay with us and we would like him to stay with us.
“To sign a contract a person must be happy. Let’s see if we can make him happy.”
In terms of United’s attack, Mourinho feels there are now few obvious weaknesses.
In an answer that appeared to quell recurring speculation United may attempt to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, Mourinho said: “I think in attack it’s difficult for us to improve.
“Where are we going to get a better combination of players than we have? We cannot buy (Lionel) Messi, we cannot buy Cristiano – these are the best players of the last decade.
“Where can we get better players than Mata, (Anthony) Martial, (Jesse) Lingard, (Marcus) Rashford, Alexis, (Romelu) Lukaku? In attack we have an amazing group of players.”
United, who are second in the Premier League, face a tough trip to Wembley to face Tottenham on Wednesday.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has frequently been linked with Real Madrid and Mourinho – a former boss at the Bernabeu – believes he could excel elsewhere.
He said: “I look at Spurs’ history and I don’t see a small club at all. I see a big club with big expectations and dreams to achieve.
“I see him at Spurs for many years. I also see him leaving and having a very good career at other clubs.”
Mourinho added Sanchez would have “no problem” dealing with a potentially hostile reception from Spurs fans.