- Midfielder says good form of the team can be decisive for the second part of the season
MANCHESTER: Manchester United must find top form heading into what can be the decisive Christmas period, midfielder Juan Mata has said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League home game against Newcastle United.
United, in second place, trail neighbours City by eight points after 11 games and were beaten 1-0 by champions Chelsea in their last outing before the international break. “We return to training with the mindset on the Newcastle match and the importance of the months that lie ahead, as they come loaded with games, especially during the Christmas period,” Mata wrote on his blog on the club’s website.
“These are moments in which good form of the team can be decisive for the second part of the season.” Mata, who has not featured in the league since last month’s 2-1 loss at Huddersfield Town, said United had to guard against complacency against Newcastle. “Everyone knows they are newly-promoted but they are still a big club with several Spanish players … We hope to play a good game that allows us to get all three points, and continue showing that strength in Old Trafford.”
LUKAKU ON ZLATAN’S RETURN: Striker Romelu Lukaku believes his recent goal drought at Manchester United is a result of the club not playing at the level they did at the start of the Premier League season. Lukaku has scored seven goals from 11 league games but has failed to find the net in the last four as United, who have lost two of their last three matches, dropped to second in the table, eight points below runaway leaders Manchester City.
The 24-year-old struck a brace for Belgium in Friday’s 3-3 draw in the friendly against Mexico and said he hoped to regain his scoring touch to help his club catch up with the leaders. “We started by blowing teams away, being dominant and creating chances. But in the last few weeks, we didn’t play at the same level and that made it more difficult for me,” Lukaku told Sky Sports.
“That’s the sort of thing you have to go through in the season, but now there are players coming back from injury and hopefully we can deliver performances even better than at the start of the season. We can create more chances and goals.” Lukaku said the return of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic from injury will motivate him to do even better.
The Swede is currently working his way towards regaining full fitness after suffering a knee injury last season. “It motivates me really because he’s another good player to add to the squad… When you face a team like us, it’s difficult for opponents,” Lukaku said. “Ibrahimovic coming back will help us to chase Manchester City (in the title race).”
Lukaku’s brace in Brussels took his international tally to 30 goals to match Bernard Voorhoof and Paul van Himst and he could overtake them when Belgium face Japan in a friendly on Tuesday. “I feel great… I was born to score,” added Lukaku. “I don’t think many strikers of my generation have as many goals as me. I am like a leopard in the box.”