United midfielder urges team­mates to fin­ish sea­son on a high

New Straits Times - - Sport -


JUAN Mata be­lieves it is im­per­a­tive Manch­ester United win their fi­nal two Premier League games to make sure they are in peak con­di­tion for their Europa League fi­nal against Ajax.

United’s 2-1 de­feat at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur on Sun­day means they can no longer fin­ish in the top four and leaves the Europa League fi­nal in Stock­holm on May 24 as their last chance of se­cur­ing Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

United visit Southamp­ton to­day be­fore en­ter­tain­ing Crys­tal Palace on the sea­son’s fi­nal day and while there is noth­ing rid­ing on the games, Mata says he and his team­mates can­not af­ford to take them lightly.

“Now it’s time to play two good games to close the Premier League and reach the Europa League fi­nal in the best shape that we can,” the Span­ish midfielder wrote on his blog, pub­lished on the United web­site.

“It’s true that the cal­en­dar has been hec­tic over the last two months, but we have to push over Sakho but they will not give him away cheaply.

There is no way back for Sakho un­der Jur­gen Klopp but the club will not cut their losses.

Given that Michael Keane is likely to com­mand a fee close to £25 mil­lion when he leaves Burn­ley hard now to try to win the three re­main­ing games. We re­ally want to.”

United man­ager Jose Mourinho has made it clear that the Europa League is now the club’s sole fo­cus, hav­ing rested play­ers at Tot­ten­ham and in the 2-0 loss at Arse­nal that pre­ceded it.

He made eight changes to the team that had over­come Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi­fi­nals for the de­feat at Spurs, which left United seven points be­low the top four in sixth place.

Mourinho says he al­ready has an idea of the team he would like to align against Ajax and he must now strike a bal­ance be­tween rest­ing his key play­ers and mak­ing sure they are fit and fir­ing for the trip to Swe­den.

Mourinho, who con­firmed that midfielder Paul Pogba will miss to­day’s game fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther, said he was strug­gling to grant his play­ers time off to re­cover be­tween matches.

“I am giv­ing one-day holiday ‘a la carte’, if you un­der­stand,” Mourinho said. “(Da­ley) Blind one day off, (Hen­rikh) Mkhi­taryan one day off, (An­der) Her­rera one day off. this summer, Liver­pool will be aim­ing to gen­er­ate an even big­ger price for Sakho, whom they signed for £18 mil­lion in Septem­ber 2013.

Keane is a player whom Liver­pool are firmly in­ter­ested in, as they are Van Dijk.

“What I want for the play­ers is a good at­ti­tude, is a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude, a pos­i­tive ap­proach, is team spirit, is un­der­stand­ing that some guys, they have to sac­ri­fice them­selves for the good of oth­ers.”

Southamp­ton, who won 2-1 at rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough on Sun­day, are in a straight shootout for eighth place with West Bromwich Al­bion, who cur­rently lead them on goal dif­fer­ence.

They are also out to avenge their 3-2 de­feat by United in Fe­bru­ary’s League Cup fi­nal, which left a bit­ter taste af­ter Manolo Gab­bia­dini saw what would have been the open­ing goal ruled out for a du­bi­ous off­side.

As well as miss­ing out on the League Cup, Southamp­ton will be un­able to im­prove on the pre­vi­ous sea­son’s league plac­ing — sixth — for the first time in eight cam­paigns.

But cap­tain Steven Davis be­lieves an eighth-place fin­ish will still rep­re­sent an ac­cept­able sea­son.

“If we go on and fin­ish the sea­son strongly and get our­selves in that eighth po­si­tion, then we can look back at it and say it’s been an

They would be pre­pared to break their club trans­fer record for the Hol­land in­ter­na­tional and the abil­ity to of­fer Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball would help their chances.

But as was the case 12 months ago, when Liver­pool gen­er­ated OK sea­son,” said the North­ern Ir­ish midfielder.

“We got to the cup fi­nal, with Euro­pean ex­pe­ri­ence (in the Europa League) and a de­cent league po­si­tion, but we all want more than that.”

Southamp­ton man­ager Claude Puel is likely to re­store sev­eral of his first-team play­ers af­ter mak­ing a num­ber of changes at Mid­dles­brough.

Top scorer Char­lie Austin could start af­ter mak­ing his come­back from a five-month ab­sence with a shoul­der in­jury as a sub­sti­tute at the River­side Sta­dium.

Mean­while, United have raised their full-year rev­enue and profit fore­cast for 2016-17.

The club said they ex­pected to re­port full-year rev­enue be­tween £560 mil­lion (RM3.12 bil­lion) and £570 mil­lion, better than the pre­vi­ous fore­cast of be­tween £530 and £540 mil­lion.

The club also in­creased their fore­cast for earn­ings be­fore in­ter­est, tax, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­i­ti­sa­tion (EBITDA) to £185£195 mil­lion for 2016-17. The pre­vi­ous fore­cast was for a fig­ure of be­tween £170 and £180 mil­lion. Agen­cies al­most £100 mil­lion in sales, they will off­load those they don’t see as hav­ing a fu­ture for a pre­mium.

An­other win­dow of change beck­ons with play­ers such as Al­berto Moreno and Lazar Markovic all ex­pected to be sold. Daily Mail

Liver­pool de­fender Ma­madou Sakho (front) has made a huge im­pres­sion at Crys­tal Palace dur­ing his loan spell this sea­son.

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