Juan Mata has shed light on Manchester United’s dressing room atmosphere in the wake of defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Spurs, playing their last ever game at White Hart Lane, flew out of the blocks at went ahead through Victor Wanyama after just six minutes before Harry Kane doubled the advantage just after half time.
Wayne Rooney pulled a goal back for the visitors following some great work from Anthony Martial but it turned out to be the last goal scored at White Hart Lane as Jose Mourinho‘s men slumped to another defeat at the hands of a North London side.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, noted that there was a “bad taste” currently pervading the dressing room but also an immense optimism ahead of the Europa League final.
“I know you have a bad taste right now, after the defeat against Tottenham. Same as we do. But we must remember that we have a few exciting days ahead, and I hope that at the end of the season we can say that, overall, it’s been a good season for us,” he said.
“This weekend we visited a stadium that was saying goodbye to football. It was the last Premier League game at White Hart Lane. Obviously, it would’ve been much better to win and be able to say that you were the last team who won there, but we couldn’t.
“They are always a tough and difficult opponent, and they also wanted to win the last home game of the season, of course. At least it’s been a privilege to have played this farewell match, and I’m happy that I felt good physically in another demanding game after my recovery.
“Now it’s time to play two good games to close the Premiership and reach the Europa League final in the best shape that we can. It’s true that the calendar has been hectic over the last two months, but we have to push hard now to try to win the three remaining games. We really want to.
“I hope we can enjoy something similar after the final in Stockholm. The semis against Celta were tough. We suffered until the last minute, but at the end we made it to the big final. However, as I said after the game, I think they should be very proud of what they did.”
Defeat at White Hart Lane – and a scoreline that flattered the visitors – precipitated concerns over Man United’s form heading into a season-defining Europa League final. Mourinho, along with his players, may have long ago lost interest in the Premier League, but the lack of potency against Arsenal and Spurs has provided cause for concern nonetheless.
Then again, this isn’t the first time United have wilted on the domestic front in preparation for a European final.
Ahead of the European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Barcelona, for example, Sir Alex Ferguson made sure that none of the 11 players that started the final began all three of their last league games. United won one and lost two of those games, including a 3-0 defeat to Crytal Palace just days before the final, and finished, funnily enough, in sixth spot.
In short, this approach has been employed successfully before, and nobody will blame the Portuguese’s approach if he does claim victory in Stockholm on May 24.