Man Utd’s record signing Juan Mata believes the Red Devils can emulate Liverpool’s impressive season this year by challenging for the Premier League title without the additional schedule of Champions League football, reports Sky
The Spanish attacking midfielder, who joined United in January from title hopefuls Chelsea, believes the reduced schedule will be of benefit to the club, who are expected to announce their new manager next week.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mata said: “It can definitely be an advantage in the league. Of course, I would rather be playing in the Champions League, but if we take Liverpool as the example – you have a team who have fought all the way to the finish without having played in the Champions League.”
Club legend Ryan Giggs is presently in charge at Old Trafford on an interim player-manager basis following the dismissal of former boss David Moyes in April, and Mata admits that the Welshman was his idol as a boy, and took the first chance he had to inform the 40-year-old.
He continued: “I told him when I arrived that he had been my hero growing up,” he admitted. “And he said to me, ‘I’m really happy you’re here. But I’m a bit sad too because now I’ve only got the second best left foot at the club.’
“I told him that was impossible. He was the player I watched most closely as a kid. I loved the way he controlled the ball and the touch he had. He was a pure winger, left-footed, right out on the touchline. He was fast, unplayable in a one-on-one situation, and he scored goals. Now destiny has made him my team-mate and my manager.”
Mata remained cool when questioned about the prospect of being managed by Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, who is the bookmaker’s favourite to take the job at Old Trafford, and who last week admitted he would love to take on the role.
“I’ve never met him,” he said.
“I know what kind of history he has, the titles he has won and the kind of football he is playing with Holland. But I don’t think it’s good to talk about a coach who is not our manager.”
The Red Devils round off their season, and most likely Ryan Giggs’ brief stint in charge – and potentially even the Welshman’s playing career – when they travel to Southampton on Sunday. They do still have a faint chance of qualifying for the Europa League, but must hope Tottenham’s game against Aston Villa ends in a losing effort for Tim Sherwood’s men.
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