Juan Mata hopes Manchester United can sustain some winning momentum as they continue their top-four chase with Wednesday’s Premier League clash against Crystal Palace.
Louis van Gaal’s side responded to a damaging 3-0 loss to Tottenham by beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday – a result which confirmed the visitors’ relegation to the Championship.
Palace’s 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Sunday means United are only four points behind the fourth-placed Gunners with five matches to play, and Mata – who scored the winner in this fixture last season – wants another three points to sustain their Champions League charge.
“We are in good spirits ahead of these two games after the win against Aston Villa,” he wrote in his blog on Monday. “The last week was very positive for us and it should help the team to gather momentum for the last few games.
“Our goal is to play the Champions League the next season and all we think about right now is to win every single game. We play at home and we want to have a good game in front of our fans; we know that we can count on Old Trafford to have an extra energy.
“With the crowd’s support we can be closer to the victory, although Palace got a draw at the Emirates this weekend and it’s not going to be an easy game for us.”
With six points from their last four games – including a win over Norwich City, their first in 2016 – Palace have climbed to the brink of safety, with the gap to the bottom three now at nine points.
Palace have never beaten United in the Premier League and have failed to score on five of their six visits to Old Trafford, but Van Gaal was forced to admit that his side had been outplayed in the 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture in October.
And with survival not mathematically assured, defender Scott Dann wants another impressive performance from his team-mates in order to help them continue to climb the table.
“You’d like to think 39 points was enough [to stay up] but the way we’ve picked up recently we want to put some more on the board and try and catch the teams above us, and that’s what we’re aiming to do on Wednesday,” he told the club’s website.
“We’ve got a big week coming up so we just need to rest up, there’s a few people with knocks but we’ve got to go to Manchester United on Wednesday and hopefully we can get a good result.”
With both United and Palace keeping one eye on respective FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday and Sunday, both managers could opt to make changes from the weekend in order to keep their squad fresh.
Ander Herrera (foot) and Adnan Januzaj (hamstring) are both doubts for United, who will also be without Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Luke Shaw, who is a month away from his projected return from a broken leg.
Wayne Rooney lasted just over an hour against Villa on his first start since recovering from a knee injury and is expected to start, as he chases the goal he needs to reach 100 in the top flight at Old Trafford.
Dann picked up a foot injury against Arsenal and could be rested, with Dwight Gayle (gluteus) unlikely to be risked. James McArthur (ankle), Marouane Chamakh (groin) and Kwesi Appiah (knee) are sidelined.
Key Opta Stats:
– Manchester United have won their last eight home league matches against Crystal Palace.
– Palace have kept only one clean sheet away to Manchester United in league competition in 18 attempts – October 1970 (1-0).
– Marcus Rashford has scored seven goals in his 12 appearances for Manchester United so far, despite only 10 shots on target.
– Palace have won six Premier League points (W1 D3 L0) in April so far, more than in January, February and March combined (two points – W0 D2 L9).
– All three of Emmanuel Adebayor’s Premier League goals against Manchester United have been scored at Old Trafford.
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