Man United can still win the league, claims Mata

MANCHESTER United’s record £37m signing Juan Mata still believes the champions can retain their Premier League title, despite trailing league leaders Arsenal by 14 points with 16 games to go.

Mata is expected to make his debut against bottom club Cardiff at Old Trafford tomorrow night, as United look to end a miserable month on a high having exited both domestic cups and suffered two league defeats in three games.

The 25-year-old is not used to ending a season empty-handed, having collected Champions League and Europa League winners medals during two seasons at Chelsea, and has not given up hope of adding to his collection come May.

“What I like the most about this club is the character. I think if another club were in this position in the league, I think it would be very difficult to come back and take first position, but this club can do it,” said Mata, twice voted Chelsea’s player of the year.

“This is the real image I have from Man United, always fighting to win titles, always coming back from difficult moments.

“The team is really good, the squad is really good. This season they have had some unlucky moments they didn’t deserve. Hopefully from now until the end of the season we will win as many games as we can.”

Mata will wear the No8 shirt at United, the number occupied by striker Wayne Rooney following his own big-money transfer from Everton almost 10 years ago.

Rooney has been linked with a move away from United both last summer and this month, but is now tipped to sign a new contract and could return to the first team tomorrow having missed the last five matches with a groin injury. Mata, yesterday revealed his admiration for Rooney and hopes the pair can enjoy a fruitful partnership at Old Trafford.

“For me he is one of the best players in the history of this country,” Mata said. “He is unbelievable, he can score and he can assist.

“I will try to connect with him as much as I can. I will try to find the gaps in rival defences, try to be in the positions I have to be in to assist the strikers.”