Juan Mata says their bitter rivals Liverpool will provide the first real test of United’s character
And midfielder Juan Mata says their bitter rivals Liverpool will provide the first real test of United’s character and title credentials. What they have achieved thus far goes out of the window.
Jose Mourinho’s team have won nine of their 10 games in all competitions, scoring at a rate of over three a match and conceding only four.
But they have yet to face any of the clubs expected to be fighting for the title at the end of the season and Mata admits the midday showdown will be a significant yardstick of their transition from title also-rans to genuine contenders.
“It is the second season with this manager, people know him better, understand him better and we have added important players to the squad with Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof,” he said.
“We have started the season really well. We arrived at the international break in a very good position, we are feeling a positive vibe in training and there is a good atmosphere in the dressing room too.
“But that is because we are winning and everything is going well. In any season there will be moments when it will be difficult and that is when we have to show our personality as a team and stick together – and Liverpool will be one of those games.
Liverpool vs Manchester United: Sky Sports pundits name biased combined XI
Fri, October 13, 2017
Sky Sports pundits have been naming their combined Liverpool and Manchester United XIs, and there is definitely a preference for Red Devils players in the final line-up based on their choices
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Sky Sports pundits have named their combined Liverpool and Manchester United XI
“This is a different game, it’s a very special game, so what you did before in the season doesn’t count. The 90 minutes count. It’s just three points but it’s something more than that in terms of what Liverpool-United means for everyone.”
Mourinho urged his players yesterday to relish the traditional hostile atmosphere at Anfield and Mata agrees that they must play the game rather than the occasion to give themselves the perfect springboard for an important period of fixtures.
“In these kind of games, little details can change everything,” he said. “In these kind of games, you should try to avoid mistakes because they can be a big part of the game.
“It will be difficult but we’re in a good moment and if we remain calm and we impose ourselves, we can win.
“From now on until Christmas, it’s a really important period. We play games every two or three days and play seven or eight games a month and that can define your season overall. So, we need to be ready for this physically and mentally.”
The Spain midfielder carved himself a niche in United’s folklore when his double – including an acrobatic scissors-kick winner – secured them a 2-1 win at Anfield in March 2015 but he admits he has also experienced some disappointments there.
Juan Mata is happy with his role in the Man Utd team
I’m very happy with my role in the team, I feel important in the team
Man Utd star Juan Mata
“I have some good memories from playing against Liverpool – some not so good, with some defeats – but that day was definitely one of my best days as a United player, with two goals – especially that nice goal to secure the win.
“It was a perfect day and it always brings positive memories to my mind and to all United fans because I have to say, even two or three years after that goal, people keep reminding me about it.”
Mata’s future was under scrutiny when Mourinho was appointed United 16 months ago because he had been sold by the Portuguese manager during his time at Chelsea.
But thanks to keeping his self-belief and showing determination as well as his quality, he has convinced Mourinho he can be a vital part of his team while banishing talk of a move.
“It [the relationship] has been good and hopefully it will continue like that,” said Mata. “I believe in myself and my football and the way I train and play.
“I’m very happy with my role in the team, I feel important in the team and I feel the confidence of my team-mates and the manager, so that’s what a player needs to perform at his best level.”
Sweep aside Liverpool today in the manner they have other teams this season and that confidence will soar.