English Premiership

Mata: We have to stay focused

2016-01-22 13:00
Juan Mata (Getty Images)

Manchester - Manchester United will be looking to improve on their recent home record against Southampton on Saturday to give further credence to their unlikely challenge for the Premier League title.

Since Southampton's return to the top flight in 2012, United have beaten them only once in three attempts at Old Trafford, a 2-1 win three years ago this month.

Wayne Rooney scored both of United's goals that day and his current form has revitalised United's season, taken the heat off manager Louis van Gaal and kept the team in touch with the league pace-setters.

Rooney has scored five goals in his last four games, including last Sunday's winner in a 1-0 victory at Liverpool, which took United to within seven points of joint-leaders Arsenal and Leicester City.

After the win at Anfield, Van Gaal declared that his side can still win the league for the first time since 2013.

But they will need to improve on their general level of performance and will no doubt be under pressure again on Saturday with many supporters unimpressed by Van Gaal's management and playing style.

Midfielder Juan Mata, left out of the of the starting line-up for the last two games, admits the team has to do better, but believes that there is still an opportunity to push for the top.

"I hope this win (at Liverpool) will give us a boost of confidence and help us play better and keep getting results in order to move up the table," said Mata, who scored the decisive goal in United's 3-2 win at Southampton in September.

"There's a long way to go and there is no team who is showing a great consistency, so everything is still open. For the moment, we have to stay focused and keep the same mentality in our next game against Southampton.

"They have got two convincing wins in the last two games so we must be careful."

United may have Bastian Schweinsteiger back from a knee injury that has kept him out for two games to partner ex-Southampton player Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield.

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10 December 2016
Watford v Everton, Vicarage Road Stadium 14:30
Arsenal v Stoke City, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Hull City v Crystal Palace, Kingston Communications Stadium 17:00
Swansea City v Sunderland, Liberty Stadium 17:00
Burnley v AFC Bournemouth, Turf Moor 17:00
Leicester City v Manchester City, King Power Stadium 19:30
11 December 2016
Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Old Trafford 16:15
Southampton v Middlesbrough, St. Mary's Stadium 16:15
Liverpool v West Ham United, Anfield 18:30
13 December 2016
Everton v Arsenal, Goodison Park 21:45
AFC Bournemouth v Leicester City, Vitality Stadium 21:45
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