Juan Mata
Juan Mata returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving Chelsea Getty

Juan Mata has told Chelsea's fans and players he will be forever grateful to them after the emotive reception they gave him in his return to Stamford Bridge, the first time he has been back since his move to Manchester United.

The Spaniard became a favourite for the Blues' fans during his two-and-a-half seasons at the west London club, twice being named Chelsea player of the year while helping his side win the Champions League and the FA Cup in 2011-12, and the Europa League the following campaign.

But after falling out of favour of manager Jose Mourinho during the first part of the 2013-14 season, Mata was forced to move to Old Trafford during the January transfer window in order to get more playing time.

The Chelsea supporters had no hard feelings against the Spaniard for his move. They handed him an emotive welcome at Stamford Bridge during the Blues' 1-0 victory over manager Louis van Gaal's side on 18 April and gave him a great ovation when he left the pitch in the second-half.

Mata has responded to Chelsea's affection in his weekly blog and congratulated them for the Premier League title "they are about to win".

"It was really moving to feel the people's respect and affection, and I will always be grateful for that... To them and also to the players. I thank them for such affection and I congratulate them for the title they are about to win, because it's almost done..." he wrote.

"It was nice to meet them and chat with them after the game, and also the club's staff, doctors, physios, etc, and feel their respect and friendship. Thanks to all and congratulations."

Meanwhile, the United playmaker expressed his delighted for his team's performance despite the defeat.

"I felt proud of the game the team had played, keeping the ball possession, controlling the game and creating chances to score, and all this at Stamford Bridge against the leader..." Mata added.

"As our manager said after the game, we were loyal to our football idea, and despite the score didn't show that, if we keep playing like this there will be many more wins than defeats, I'm pretty sure of that.

"Besides, the team showed personality by playing that way against such a tough opponent, who gave no space in their half of the pitch and defended with so many players. Obviously, we also made some mistakes we have to learn from in the future. But overall that was my feeling about the game we had played: pride."