MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 25 – Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata admits his team-mates are furious after dropping two points at Leicester City, but he hopes they can channel that frustration into a strong response against Burnley on Tuesday.
Jose Mourinho’s side were stunned by a late goal from 10-man Leicester in a 2-2 draw that saw United fall a staggering 13 points behind leaders Manchester City at the halfway stage of the campaign.
Mourinho angrily spoke of missing “joke chances” and “childish” errors from his players after Saturday’s draw.
But Mata, who scored both United goals in an excellent personal display, hopes his side responds positively to the frustration of the evening at the King Power Stadium.
“You have to keep going. It’s Christmas time, you play every two or three days obviously,” Mata said.
“Now we feel frustrated and angry but we need to keep going and, from tomorrow, rest and think about the next game and have the will of finishing the next game with a much better feeling.
“We got a point but it feels like a defeat because we were so close to winning, had chances to kill the game and they were with one less player.”
Mata put United 2-1 ahead with a superbly-taken free-kick and revealed afterwards that his goal celebration was a dedication to Indian children with whom his charitable foundation Common Goal works.
“It was because when the kids from the Oscar Foundation — one of the foundations we work with — came to Old Trafford to visit me they asked if I could do this kind of ‘namaste’ celebration for them,” explained Mata.
“The first goal I didn’t do it because we needed a second goal but for the second goal I thought of them and it was dedicated for those kids in the slums of Mumbai.”
– United injury woe –
Mourinho may feel less charitable when it comes to selecting his team for the visit of Sean Dyche’s side, although injuries will limit his options at Old Trafford.
Eric Bailly is a long-term absentee while Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini have been ruled out of the holiday games.
Matteo Darmian missed the Leicester game, while centre-half Chris Smalling was hampered by a late injury.
At least United have history on their side in the Boxing Day fixture, having not lost at home to Burnley since September 1962, a sequence of eight wins and five draws.
And United’s run of 19 wins from the 23 Boxing Day games they have played in the Premier League era is a record for the division.
Burnley will be looking to respond to the 3-0 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend and will be without in-form defender James Tarkowski, who serves the second game of a three-match ban.
But Clarets manager Dyche has every reason to be pleased with the first half of the season as his team visit Old Trafford just three points from the Champions League places.
“We’ve got good points on the table,” he said. “Whichever team we put out there, we’ve always been competitive.
“That’s the key, even going into these games, which are tough games.
“The key is to be competitive. As long as we’re doing that, and we perform, over a longer period, we’ll get results. That’s what we’ve done over the season.
“We’ll have to continue to do that. It’s probably the first time we’ve been stretched this season.
“Adding a suspension does stretch it, but I’ve great faith in the players.”