Juan Mata is determined to add the Europa League to Manchester United’s trophy-filled museum and return to European football’s top table by hook or by crook.
Just as Thursday’s last-16 second leg with Rostov was beginning to become jittery, the in-form 28-year-old turned home from close range to secure a 1-0 win that saw Jose Mourinho’s men through 2-1 on aggregate.
That triumph put United through to the quarter-final juncture of the Europa League – a competition nobody at Old Trafford ideally wants to be in, albeit victory would seal Champions League qualification.
If that carrot was not enough, the Europa League remains the only major UEFA trophy to have eluded the Red Devils – a set Mata is determined to finish this season.
“It became a while ago very important for us,” he said. “I still think we have the chance to get to the Champions League through the Premier League.
“I still think we can win a lot of games and get into the third or fourth positions. But it’s another chance for us and we will take it very seriously.
“It’s very important – it could be one more trophy and it means we play Champions League.
“Obviously it was a disappointment on Monday that we went out of the FA Cup.
“It could have been another trophy in a season where we have already won two trophies, but we need to focus on what we are in.
“We are in the Premier League – obviously not playing for the championship – but playing for the third or fourth position, and trying to win the Europa League.
“It will be good for the museum in the stadium and for us to play Champions League next season.”
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