Juan Mata has shed light on a confident dressing room atmosphere following Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Southampton in the Premier League.
A first half goal from Romelu Lukaku – his eighth in as many games – and an indomitable defensive display in the second half gave Man United another three points and their fifth clean sheet of the season to keep level on points with Manchester City at the top of the table.
They will now travel to Russia for their first away game in the Champions League this season against a CSKA Moscow side that won in Lisbon against Benfica on match-day one.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, has noted that United produced a performance on Saturday indicative of potential title contenders and encouraged his teammates to remain focused on the task against Moscow.
“I’m getting used to writing to you after a victory, and I know we all like it,” he said.
“What a great routine that is! In this case –last Saturday in Southampton– the win was really tough to get, they didn’t let us play our game and they had chances to tie the score until the end. The truth is they didn’t deserve to lose but football is like that sometimes.
“We know a couple of things about it, since we were in the same situation several times last season. It was not our best game, that’s for sure, but luckily we managed to get the three points. This kind of games can make the difference between reaching the end of the season with a chance to fight for the title or not. We did a good work defensively and that was the key to win.
“The three points keep us up in the table and with a high level of confidence, but that’s the past already. The schedule doesn’t allow for a break and we’re now focused on the Champions League.
“This Monday we pack our bags and travel to Moscow, where we play on Wednesday. It’s a long trip with two hours of time difference that will demand a quick adjustment. After winning the first game in the group stage it would be great to do the same in such a top clash.
“CSKA Moscow is a classic in European football. They won all their games in the two previous ties before the group stage, which they have started with an extraordinary victory in Lisbon.
“Needless to say, it’s going to be a very difficult game, as they all are in the Champions League anyway. We know how excited you are about this competition and we will give everything we have to live up to your expectations.”
Nobody wants to play CSKA. They are one of the rare teams in the Champions League – kind of like Celtic – to be there every year but never harbour a real chance of making it through the group stages, meaning they enter every game with a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality – something that almost cost United a defeat on their last visit to the Russian capital in November 2015.
That said, with their star player Mario Fernandes set to miss out through injury and United heading into the game bursting with confidence, supporters can be hopeful of a less frustrating outing this time around.