Juan Mata insists derailing Liverpool’s title tilt is not Manchester United’s main motivation as they look to seal a “very special” win this weekend.
Hours before the Carabao Cup final takes place in the capital, Old Trafford arguably plays host to an even more hotly-anticipated clash on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool won 3-1 in December’s meeting between these old foes – a result that brought an end to Jose Mourinho’s tumultuous reign and set United on course for an exciting new chapter.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form side have risen up to fourth in the table and Mata says the focus is on strengthening that position rather than looking to throw Jurgen Klopp’s title-challenging Reds off kilter at this crucial stage of the season.
“We see it in a different way, which is we’re trying to stay in these top four positions,” the Spaniard said.
“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.”
Mata has enjoyed his fair share of clashes against Liverpool, with the highlight to date being his brace as Louis Van Gaal oversaw a 2-1 victory at Anfield in March 2015.
“Since I arrived in Manchester, I felt this was the big game,” the United midfielder told the club’s website.
“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.
“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.
“That’s what we’re living right now, and that’s what we want to keep until the end of the season – this positive momentum.”
Liverpool are sure to prove a hard nut to crack at Old Trafford. Klopp’s side drew 0-0 with Bayern Munich in the Champions League in midweek and have lost just one Premier League game all season.
They have scored in every league away game to date, but Mata believes the Old Trafford faithful can help them overcome their bitter rivals.
“We want to have not only 11, but 75,000 playing and trying to score on Sunday, and I’m sure they will help us,” Mata said, having heard the away support take over Stamford Bridge during Monday’s 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round win.
“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.”
- Press Association