Sunday 17 December 2017

Juan Mata: Speed is the key to beating dogged Stoke

Manchester United's Juan Mata
Manchester United's Juan Mata

Simon Stone

Juan Mata believes speed is the key to Manchester United getting three more valuable points from Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Stoke.

United have already had one positive result at the Britannia Stadium this season, securing an excellent win in the Capital One Cup.

Sadly for the Red Devils, it just proved to be one of numerous false dawns during David Moyes' debut campaign.

Mata's £37.1million arrival from Chelsea is aimed at securing something rather more long term.

And, with Everton and Tottenham both dropping points in midweek, the opportunity does exist for United to claim a place in the top five this weekend.

Yet Mata knows beating Stoke cannot be taken for granted.

A 3-2 defeat for Chelsea in the Potteries last month came on one of his rare Premier League starts for Jose Mourinho.

And, while Mata was part of a Blues team that romped to a four-goal success last term, the 25-year-old has been around long enough not to expect an easy time.

"It has always been difficult to play against Stoke," he said.

"They like to play long balls and are a physical team but we just need to play our own game with the quality players we have.

"If you try to play quickly, you can get chances to score and put yourself in a good position."

A raucous atmosphere is guaranteed from a sell-out crowd - not that Mata is too worried about the reception.

"The thing I like the most is to play," he said. "It doesn't matter to me what the stadium is."

With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney back, United already look a different proposition to the team that limped into 2014.

However, defender Jonny Evans is not getting carried away.

"We can't keep saying every time we get a win that it is going to kick start our season," he said.

"We will only be able to do that in maybe five games' time.

"We need to make sure we keep performing like that."

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