Mata: We'll have 75,000 fans playing with us
Juan Mata has urged Manchester United's fans to drive the team on in Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford - a fixture he describes as "the biggest there is in English football".
The Spaniard was superb in Monday's Emirates FA Cup fifth-round win at Chelsea – at the attacking head of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s effective midfield diamond – and believes the crowd at the Theatre of Dreams can help us record another important win against the Merseysiders.
“We want to have not only 11, but 75,000 [people] playing and trying to score on Sunday, and I’m sure they [the fans] will help us,” enthused the former Chelsea playmaker.
“I’m sure they will push us for the win and I have to say that the atmosphere at Old Trafford in the last few weeks has been incredible. They’re happy. They come and they’re getting results. The fans are going back home happy, and that’s the most important thing for us, so hopefully on Sunday it can be the same.
“Since I arrived in Manchester, I felt this was the big game. Liverpool-United, United-Liverpool – everyone is waiting for those derbies, and you can feel it in the build-up to the game. During the week, everyone is speaking about it, everyone is thinking about it. We will try to make it very special."
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United were beaten 3-1 when the sides last met at Anfield in December, but Mata is confident that Jurgen Klopp’s men will encounter a different beast this time around.
“Obviously when you win and you’re in a good run of results, everyone is happier. It gives you more confidence to play even better,” Juan explained.
“That’s what we’re living right now, and that’s what we want to keep [going] until the end of the season - this positive momentum.”
Our no.8 earned eternal legendary status when he netted twice at Anfield in March 2015 to seal a 2-1 win – leading some fans to cheekily rechristen the ground ‘Juanfield’ – and, unsurprisingly, that day means a lot to the midfielder.
“The game where I scored a brace at Anfield, when I scored that scissor-kick goal, will always have a special place in my heart and in my memory,” he admits.
“That was probably the biggest and the happiest memory that I have from our games against Liverpool during my time here. Also some other good games at Old Trafford – some other goal, assists – but that day at Anfield I cannot forget.”
The emotional pull of this fixture is renowned and the stakes are arguably higher than usual this weekend, with many supporters keen to see United derail Liverpool’s bid to end a 29-year title drought. But Juan reveals that’s not the way the squad thinks.
“We see it in a different way, which is: we’re trying to stay in these top four positions,” he states. “We got there after a very good run in the last months. Honestly it felt quite difficult to do it, if you asked me two months ago.
“But we are there now and we want to keep that position by winning, and obviously we’ll have to play against Liverpool and Manchester City, and both are fighting for the title with Tottenham, so let’s see what happens. But obviously what we want is to win every game and especially against the big teams.”
You can watch more of Juan's interview during the Match Day show on MUTV, which gets under way on Sunday at 12:30 GMT ahead of kick-off at 14:05 GMT.
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