Cruyff died on Thursday, aged 68, following a battle with lung cancer.
Numerous warm tributes were paid to the man who also coached Barcelona's famous "Dream Team" from 1988 to 1996, and Mata took the opportunity to reflect on Cruyff's vast footballing legacy in his weekly blog for Kicca.
"I consider him the ideological father of the football; the one I try to play like and the one I look to learn from as a spectator whenever I watch a game," the Spain international wrote.
"The intelligent use of the ball and the spaces, the importance of talent over the physical condition and the understanding of football as a team sport are concepts that I definitely endorse.
READ MORE | Cruyff's immortal legend lives on
"Besides, I think that the idea of attacking and taking the initiative of the match [goes] very well with the philosophy and greatness of Manchester United, where his son Jordi played.
"It's a great loss but we will always have his legacy. He was the game."