Mata is wary of the Hornets' ability to sting
Juan Mata has called for Manchester United to forget about December’s disappointing defeat to Watford, when the Reds host the Hornets at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Goals from Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney capped a disappointing afternoon in Hertfordshire just prior to Christmas, and our Spanish playmaker wants to see better in the reverse fixture against Nigel Pearson’s side.
“Yeah, that wasn’t a very good day for us… neither the performance nor the result,” says Mata, in an exclusive interview in the latest edition of United Review, the official matchday programme at the Theatre of Dreams.
“They have been doing well under their new manager. I always thought they had a very strong team physically and they are difficult to beat.
“So it will be tough but hopefully we can get a good result and from there build until the end of the season.”
After a poor start to the season, during which they only won one of their opening 17 Premier League games, Watford have moved to within a point of safety under the tutelage of Pearson.
The former Leicester City boss has made his new side hard to beat - the Hornets have lost just two of their last nine in the league, both to last-minute strikes - and Mata wants to see United come out all guns blazing against a side who will inevitably set up to frustrate.
“It’s always important to score early if you can because then the game goes more into your direction, you can play more relaxed let’s say, not thinking that you need to score one, two or three goals to win the game, which can happen if you concede first.
“So it’s always a plus. We have had some games in which we didn’t score first but we still won the game through a comeback which is always a nice feeling, but I would always rather score first.
“This game is at Old Trafford and we need to focus on starting it very strongly and try to create as much as we can and try to be commanding in our performance.”
The Reds have added Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo to the ranks since that chastening trip to Vicarage Road.
The latter could be in line to make his first United start against the club he plied his trade at between 2014 and 2017, and Juan is impressed with the impact both our new faces have made since signing at the end of January.
“We welcomed them both,” Mata adds. “Bruno is a very good player, we all know that, and a very nice guy also. We have been in contact a lot. He speaks Spanish mixed with Portuguese which is not very different. So he’s a good guy and I think he’s settling in very well.
“He’s found his place in Manchester [to live] and also with the help of Fred, Andreas and Diogo [Dalot] he’s enjoying it. They’ve helped him a lot.
“Hopefully he can help us in this second part of the season and I’m sure he will because he’s a quality player.
“Odion has experience of playing in the Premier League and hopefully he will score many goals for us from now until the end of the season, and, as the manager said, he’s a good character as well and he’s got a good personality which has fitted straight into the dressing room.
“The better he does, then the better for us – and I wish him all the best.”
The full interview with Juan – where he discusses the winter break and helping our young players, as well as numerous other topics – appears in the Watford edition of United Review, on sale at the match on Sunday.