United counting on Juan Mata boost for Solskjaer's return

Manchester fans eager to get glimpse of record signing, who is in squad to face Cardiff City under former Red Devils striker at Old Trafford

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 12:23am

Manchester United supporters hope to get a first glimpse of record signing Juan Mata tonight when Cardiff City visit Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Mata completed a £37 million (HK$473 million) move from Chelsea on Saturday and will go straight into the squad to face Cardiff, managed by former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Spain midfielder arrives with United 14 points behind leaders Arsenal after two defeats in three games, while their last home match was a galling penalty shoot-out loss to Sunderland in the League Cup semi-finals. United manager David Moyes admitted he was surprised by Chelsea's willingness to cede Mata in the middle of the campaign, but he is excited by the prospect of seeing him in their colours.

"I'm a bit surprised because it's not something that tends to happen, especially between Premier League teams," Moyes said.

"I was surprised when it happened, but we have a really exciting player."

Mata hopes his move to United will help secure his place in champions Spain's squad for the World Cup in Brazil.

"Lots of players are fighting to be in the last 23 going to Brazil so I hope this is going to be a great chance for me to keep playing, to keep being fit and to keep showing to the manager of the national team that I want to be there and I have to be there," said Mata.

His arrival will take some of the attention away from Sols kjaer's return to his former stomping ground, although the Norwegian has greater concerns as he bids to lift Cardiff off the foot of the table.

"I looked at it the day I got the job - when we were playing Man United," said Solskjaer, who spent 11 years at United and scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final.

"Since then, it has been so busy and I haven't had time to think about it. But now, my focus is, of course, on that game. It is a dream."

With closest rivals Manchester City and Chelsea not in action until tomorrow - against Tottenham and West Ham respectively - Arsenal could open a four-point lead at the summit if they prevail at Southampton today.

Arsene Wenger's side cruised into the FA Cup fifth round with a 4-0 defeat of third-tier Coventry City on Friday and are looking to extend a run of five consecutive league victories.

Defender Carl Jenkinson said Arsenal's players had drawn confidence from a run of six league games in which they had conceded only two goals since crashing 6-3 at City last month.

"We have done that very well throughout the last year as a whole, so we just need to keep doing what we are doing because we are doing something right," said the English right back.

Liverpool have fallen off the pace in recent weeks, having topped the table as recently as Christmas Day, and are only in the Champions League places by virtue of goal difference.

But with fifth-place Spurs facing a taxing home game against City tomorrow, Brendan Rodgers' side can strengthen their claim to a top-four berth by beating sixth-place city rivals Everton.

"It's going to be a massive derby for us," said on-loan winger Victor Moses, who scored the opening goal in Saturday's 2-0 FA Cup victory over Championship team Bournemouth. "We just want to keep working hard together as a team and hopefully, if we can get three points against Everton, it will be key for us."

Agence France-Presse, Reuters


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