Juan Mata.

Mata exclusive: We have respect for Club Brugge

Juan Mata has expressed his respect for Club Brugge and underlined the need for Manchester United to be fully focused on Thursday’s UEFA Europa League last-32 tie in Belgium.

The Reds have reached this stage of the competition by finishing top of Group L with 13 points from a possible 18 and the Europa League represents an excellent opportunity to lift a trophy this season. 

Brugge were paired with United during December’s draw at the UEFA headquarters in Switzerland, with the ties due to be played at Jan Breydel Stadium this week and then Old Trafford on 27 February. 

The Belgian club are entering the competition after their elimination from the Champions League, in which they finished third in Group A behind European giants Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.
Video
Juan Mata celebrates scoring a goal with Mason Greenwood.
Juan scored from the spot in our last Europa League group game: A 4-0 win against AZ Alkmaar.

While our upcoming opponents were disappointed to earn only three points in that group, their results included an impressive 2-2 draw against Real at the imposing Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

“They’re a good Belgium team and I remember when they played in the Champions League, so they’re a team that has good experience in European competitions and they won’t be afraid of playing against us,” Mata told us before the trip to Belgium. 

“We’ll try to go through and we’ll remember the good memories we have from the Europa League and Stockholm in the final against Ajax when we won [in 2017]. It’s a really nice competition to win.”

Mata has won the Europa League on two occasions in his illustrious career, firstly at former club Chelsea in 2012/13 and then again with United.

Quizzed on what is required to succeed in the knockout stages of the competition, Mata says: “I think the key is not to make too many mistakes, because a very cheap goal can cost you in the competition. 

“So it’s about being focused on what you have to do, to play at your best level and to try to grow into the competition. It’s different than the Premier League, you can lose a game but you still have a chance to come back and win more points.

“In the Europa League, if you have a bad day you can be out of the competition, so you have to be really 100 per cent focused in every game.”

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have performed well in Europe this season and Mata is confident that the Reds can maintain that run of form in the knockout stages, beginning on Thursday night. 

 “I think we can look back at some nice games we had. We can look back at some games where we played at our best level and if we can find that level we are a really difficult team to play against. We’ll try to reach those levels in every single game and if we play like that we can go forward.”

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