"We'd be round the table together having something to eat and then the TV would be put on and we'd watch the Champions League", Mata said.
The 20-year-old is clearly reaping the rewards of his intelligent decision making as he was close to joining Barcelona at the end of last season, however, he decided that he would rather play for the first team of Ajax instead of the Barcelona B-team.
"We wanted to go out and win the game and that is what we did". It has taken 14 matches across seven cities encompassing 14,358 air miles, from Istanbul to Rostov-on-Don in southerly Russian Federation via Odessa on the north-western shore of the Black Sea, to reach this point and the prospect of falling at the final hurdle would be a crushing blow.
Jose Mourinho and his players have clearly been focused on the Europa League fixtures over the last few weeks as the Portuguese manager fielded severely weakened sides in the Premiership and it remains to be seen whether such an approach will yield results.
"Yeah, it's true", Mata said.
Harrop became the 100th different player to score a Premier League goal for United and was soon joined on the scoresheet by another academy graduate, albeit this one was far better known. "We didn't choose Europa League, we had to do it because if I have Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, if I have these guys, I can rotate".
Ninety minutes of football will determine the short-term future of the club in all areas: luring transfer targets, qualifying revenue and, most importantly, the team's jockeying for position as it slips behind its rivals.
Neville, speaking to Sky Sports, said: "When he first came in, no way in this world did I think he was a United player".
And that's where United, a 20-time English champion and three-time victor of the European Cup, feels it belongs: on the game's biggest stage.
"This season I've thoroughly enjoyed it under him". It's the swift-passing style of play that won the Amsterdam club three straight European Cups in the early 1970s and the Champions League in 1995.
It's disgraceful that as manager of Manchester United, he can't show his appreciation to those fans who pay their hard earned money week in and week out to support the club.
"If United has the bad luck that Ajax has a good game, it is going to be a very open and tough game".
"I'm more than ready to adapt to whatever the manager decides", he added. The players here know the way we like to train and the intensity we demand from our training sessions every day.
But a sixth-place finish is lower than Mourinho's predecessor Louis van Gaal managed in his two seasons, which concluded with fourth and fifth places. Even when I was out of the team at the start he always gave me confidence I would get in if I was training and playing well.