Juan Mata has insisted that Manchester United need to sustain their clinical edge in front of goal if they want to challenge the top four this season.
The first few months of the Jose Mourinho era were, above anything, characterised by Man United’s failure to convert dominant performances into wins.
However, the Portuguese’s side – ever since that 1-1 draw with Everton in early December – have mounted something of a comeback in recent times, winning 15 of their last 19 games.
And Mata, speaking to the BBC, made it clear that United have to be ruthless in front of goal over the next few months.
“We need to be more consistent. In terms of results. And we need to finish our chances better,” he said.
“Especially in three or four home games… we had to win. But in football it doesn’t matter who deserves to win.
“We need to correct that. Because I think we are moving in the right direction.
“We are playing good, we are creating chances, we just need to finish them because if we win these three or four games we will be up there [at the top of the table] and it will be a different story.”
Mourinho deserves credit for avoiding a crisis surrounding his defensive core or midfield set-up. He has, in relatively swift fashion, built up a side blessed with a solid, powerful spine. But one lingering problem remains: United’s potency in front of goal. 15 wins from 19 makes for good reading, but supporters will know how costly those draws with Stoke and Hull City were when it came to chasing the top four.
This is the one remaining thing that Mourinho finds himself still in the process of mastering, and it promises to have a shaping influence on where United end up this season.