The Spaniard has admitted it can be tricky to say his international team-mate’s name ahead of facing him at the weekend

Manchester United’s Juan Mata has joked that it makes perfect sense to refer to former Chelsea team-mate Cesar Azpilicueta as ‘Dave’ ahead of a reunion when the clubs meet on Saturday.

Ex-Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal was the butt of jokes after inadvertently referring to defender Chris Smalling as ‘Mike’ on two occasions, but Mata is fully aware of his Spain colleague’s correct title.

Indeed, due to the difficulty in pronouncing his name, Azpilicueta has been given the rather simpler English moniker since moving to England from Marseille in 2012.

“It’s very difficult, even for me as a Spaniard, to say ‘Azpilicueta’. So, for English people, I think it’s just easier, shorter and better to call him Dave,” Mata told MUTV, before discussing his relationship with the Chelsea squad.

“I know many players and people from the backroom staff there,” he said. “Cesar Azpilicueta is a very good friend from the time I was playing there. David Luiz is still there, Willian’s still there. Eden Hazard, who is a good friend, and Gary Cahill… so there are still some players there I know.

“It’s always a special game for me against Chelsea and it will be tough – they are doing good.

“They have a new manager and they play with more or less the same players but in a certain style.”

Mata is predicting a tough test for United, who find themselves with only four wins from their opening eight Premier League fixtures and facing the prospect of falling 10 points off first place if they lose the opening match of the weekend. 

He believes, however, the second-half comeback against Newcastle before the international break can inspire Jose Mourinho’s men.

“It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “Stamford Bridge is a difficult stadium, but we have to try to keep going with the amazing 20, 25 or even 45 minutes that we did against Newcastle. I think the second half was very, very good and we must try to build from there, try to play our game, try to win and then think about the next fixtures.”