Mata: United's climb has to continue
Manchester United climbed back into the top four of the Premier League on Saturday night after a stunning recovery to win 3-1 at West Ham.
It is the first time the Reds had been among the elite quartet in the division since finishing third at the end of last season in July and qualifying for this term’s Champions League.
Four consecutive wins in the league at Everton, home to West Brom, away at Southampton and now at the Hammers has seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side climb steadily from the bottom half, to mid-table and into the top four ahead of today’s matches. And Juan Mata wants the ascent to carry on.
“It has been a strange season. Very unpredictable,” Juan told us.
“Many big teams are losing points and there is not one clear leader. So we know we need to be consistent and now we are getting three points after three points and hopefully we can keep going up because that [top four] is where we want to be at the end of the year and of course at the end of the season.”
A place in the knockout stage of the Champions League is also on the agenda in Germany on Tuesday night. United have to avoid defeat against RB Leipzig to qualify for the last 16 and Mata says everyone knows the importance of the game.
“It is a final for us in the Champions League next week,” declared Juan. "We know we can draw and qualify, but we want to win and try to finish top of the group.
“It is going to be tough, they play good football and they play a different system and they need to win. Hopefully it is going to be good for football fans and hopefully even better for Manchester United fans."
United won’t want to be facing another uphill fightback in Leipzig as has been the trend in the Premier League.
While the team's never-say-die spirit is admirable, Mata warns United’s league penchant for coming from behind in matches on our travels is a treacherous path to stay on.
“It is not planned, not planned!” joked our Spanish wizard. “It shows we have to improve in our first half and the way we start games. It is also very positive to know that even though we are losing one or two-nil we can come back because we have the players and the quality to score goals.
“But it is a dangerous trend to always be behind because one day it is going to be not possible to come back, maybe.
“At half time we were maybe a bit lucky to go in only 1-0 which is obviously not good," he continued. "They scored from a set-piece which we knew they were very strong on and second half we could only improve, and I think we did improve.
“We had nothing to lose. We created chances and we scored three nice goals and we could have scored even more which is a very positive sign. But it is a dangerous game when you concede early because it is very difficult to come back.”