Juan Mata believes David de Gea’s return, Anthony Martial’s goals and Louis van Gaal’s philosophy can help Manchester United win the title.
De Gea is back in favour at Manchester United after a summer-long transfer saga saw a last-ditch £29million move to Real Madrid break down.
It is estimated the Spanish goalkeeper saved United 18 points last season as the club wrestled fourth spot back from arch-rivals Liverpool, and Mata feels he has already shown his influence with his instinctive save from Southampton skipper Jose Fonte last Sunday in the club’s 3-2 success.
“You could see the difference David makes at Southampton,” Mata told the Daily Express. “He is a goalkeeper that gives you points.
“As I friend I can only say that I wish only the best for him. I feel he is happy now and he is playing at his best level again which is the most important thing for himself and the team.
“We are very happy to have him back because he will give us a lot of points this season and our dream is to be fighting for the title until the final day this season.”
Mata says the £36m signing of Martial has given them a striker who has the pace, power and eye for goal to give them a cutting edge.
He admits he has been astonished by the cool temperament and precocious skills of the 19-year-old.
“If you come from France to England you would normally need time to settle down – and then there is his age,” said Mata. “But he is very calm and is someone who has managed the pressure very well.
“He doesn’t just bring goals to the team, he brings many more things – he knows how to play off team-mates, he knows how to run in behind, how to head, he is quick and he can run deep.
“He is a very talented young player who is having a great moment. Hopefully, he can score many more goals which will be very good for us.
“He is doing great. A striker needs confidence and to score in your first game, and then score four in four games will have a big impact on his confidence and for the team.”
And, after a sometimes difficult year of transition under Van Gaal, the squad are reaping the benefits of the Dutchman’s demanding methods.
“Every manager has his own way of working work,” he said, “and obviously with him it is different than it was with any other manager. He said when he arrived that it was going to be difficult, especially at the beginning, but I think it is about time and getting used to his technical way of working.
“But this is our second year with him so it is normal and logical that we are understanding each other better, we know each other better, not just with him, but as a team as well on the pitch.”
Van Gaal philosophy
The 45-pass move that resulted in Mata striking United’s third goal at Southampton provided some vindication of Van Gaal’s possession-based philosophy.
Ahead of Saturday’s home game with bottom club Sunderland, Mata said: “It was a great example of a way of playing that in my understanding is about being dominant in the game, having possession but with a meaning, not just possession for possession’s sake.
“I like to have possession to go forward and create chances and then try to kill the game which we did.
“Obviously if you are losing you cannot do that all the time because maybe you don’t score. It depends on the situation. But that was a great example of how to manage a situation when you are winning away. You don’t lose the ball and then you score the third goal.”