The Spanish international recalled a conversation with former team-mate Ander Herrera after seeing the forward for the first time in training.
Juan Mata has named Marcus Rashford as the biggest talent he has seen come through Manchester United’s academy.
The Spanish playmaker recalled a conversation with former team-mate Ander Herrera after they watched Rashford for the first time in training.
Rashford burst onto the scene in early 2016, and has spent the following four years becoming arguably United’s most important player.
“Obviously the first one who comes to my mind is Marcus, Marcus Rashford,” Mata said in a Q&A on United’s official website.
“Everyone knows that he is a special player and I have to admit that in the first training that he did with us in the first team, it was Louis van Gaal that was our manager, and after the training, we did a little game and he was playing on the right side, and, after everything finished, Ander Herrera came to me and said: ‘Do you see this player? How good he is? He will be a player for us.’
“He realised straight away. After one training session, Ander knew that this guy was something special.
“Of course, after that, he was very determined since the first moment he played with us, scoring very quickly, many goals and, of course, for his country also.
“I think he is probably the most special player that has come through in my time here, through the academy.”
More recently, fellow midfielder Bruno Fernandes has emerged as a new favourite at Old Trafford.
The Portuguese has hit the ground running since joining from Sporting Lisbon in January, and Mata has enjoyed getting to know him.
“I just chant his song, which is ‘Bruno, Bruno’ every morning when I see him, so I think he’s happy with my morning welcome,” he explained.
“He is a great guy; we have become very close and he’s obviously a great player.
“He’s done great.”
Mata was also asked whether he had plans to move into coaching after his playing career is up.
“It’s a difficult question,” he said. “Some days, yes; some days, no.
“Some days, yes because I love football – you can train to play in a certain way, you can train to develop players and make them reach their highest level.
“I like many parts of the game and what happens on the pitch, but on the other side, your life is constantly questioned and the demands are so high because it all depends on whether the ball goes into the goal and you can win, or not.”