MANCHESTER, February 10 – Juan Mata has warned his Manchester United team-mates they can’t afford another slip-up when they face Burnley at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
United have not lost at home to Burnley since 1962 and nothing less than victory will do in their quest to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The Clarets, who are just one place above the relegation zone, will once again be massive underdogs when they take on Louis van Gaal’s fourth placed side.
But, after taking just one point from a 1-1 draw at West Ham on Sunday, and that thanks only to a stoppage-time goal from Daley Blind, Spanish midfielder Mata knows United can’t afford another lacklustre performance.
“We must win this one because the race for the Champions League spots is now very close,” Mata said.
“We have to get the three points at home, we know that, and that’s what we are working for. I’m sure we will make it with our people’s help.”
United slipped a place to fourth following the weekend’s results and could be overhauled, temporarily at least, by the north London duo of Tottenham and Arsenal, who both play on Tuesday.
Tottenham face a tough trip to seventh-placed Liverpool but Arsenal will expect to beat bottom club Leicester at home.
That leaves United with no margin for error and defender Phil Jones is determined to make up for what he saw as a missed opportunity to close the gap on second-placed Manchester City by failing to win at West Ham.
“Ultimately, we are disappointed. We needed to win and it was a big game for us. We could have gained some ground,” Jones said.
“But it was not to be. We have got another big game on Wednesday night now and we need to win that one.
“The manager said in the dressing room after the game that he couldn’t fault our spirit. If we had shown that more in the first half then we might have come away with a victory. We need to address and evaluate this and move on to the Burnley game.”
– Battling Burnley –
Burnley have won just once away from home all season and, after letting slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion last Sunday, have tasted victory only once in their last eight league games.
But Sean Dyche’s side are renowned fighters, coming back from 2-0 down to draw at Manchester City over Christmas.
And after holding United to a 0-0 draw at Turf Moor earlier in the season, midfielder David Jones, who started his career at Old Trafford, believes they can again cause van Gaal’s side problems.
“We are looking to get something from the game and it’s a big one for us,” Jones said.
“Personally, I’ve been back to Old Trafford a few times with my previous clubs and it’s always good to go back to a ground such as that and see people.
“But beyond that, I just want to get on with it and go and put in a performance for Burnley.
“We’ll be determined to get something there and we know that if we get everyone performing well, we’re a match for anyone.”
United will be without suspended defender Luke Shaw following his sending off at West Ham and injured midfielder Michael Carrick (calf).
Dyche may be forced to change his starting line-up for the first time in 11 league games with key midfielder Dean Marney a major doubt with a knee injury.