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Juan Mata: UEFA Super Cup victory is the focus, not the pre-season friendly

Manchester United go head-to-head with Real Madrid in their second International Champions Cup match on Sunday, with less than three weeks before being pitted against  Zinedine Zidane’s team in the UEFA Super Cup. United lifted the UEFA Europa League in May to earn the place in the competition with Real Madrid winning the UEFA Champions League, the competition United earned a group stage place in with the victory in Stockholm. The match against the reigning La Liga and Champions League holders will be played at the San Francisco 49ers home, Levi’s Stadium on Santa Clara in California. United will play the Madrid club again in Skopje, Macedonia on the 8th August to contest the Super Cup.

United attacking midfielder Juan Mata believes the match in the United States of America will be a great occasion for United’s America supporters whilst also helping the club get ready for the upcoming season. However, Mata feels that the UEFA Super Cup match will be the match the club will be thinking about. The match will pit the reigning Champions League and Europa League winners to battle it out for the trophy, last won by United in 1991 after they beat Barcelona to win the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup, earning a Super Cup clash with Red Star Belgrade, winning that match 1-0 through Brian McClair’s goal at Old Trafford.

Last season United contested the FA Community Shield with former Premier League holders Leicester City at Wembley, winning 2-1 and lifting the first trophy of the new season, with United also winning the EFL Cup (now Carabao Cup) and the secondary European trophy. Mata could well miss the match against Real Madrid on Sunday after receiving a knock in the victory over Real Salt Lake earlier in the week but the Spanish international is relishing the challenge of facing the La Liga holders. Mata spoke to the official Manchester United website, saying:

“It is always great to play against this kind of team. Of course Real Madrid had a fantastic season last season. They have a fantastic team, and it will be good for both teams, it will be good for the American fans and hopefully, it will be a great game.”

When asked if the upcoming UEFA Super Cup in Macedonia was on United’s minds, Mata continued by saying:

“That is where our mind is at the moment. We are trying to get to that game in the best shape we can, physically and mentally, that is why we are training hard in the pre-season. The Super Cup is in our minds and it is obviously against Real Madrid. We are looking forward to it, looking forward to hopefully adding another trophy to the history of the club and it is going to be difficult but we will try our best.”

When the UEFA Super Cup comes around United will have played seven pre-season matches, five in the United States of America; LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona, one in Oslo – Valerenga and another in Dublin – Sampdoria meaning it will be the eighth match of the summer as manager Jose Mourinho looks to prepare his side to face West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday 13th August 2017, the first Premier League match of the season for United. Mata believed the extended pre-season schedule will aid himself and his teammates with their match fitness. The Spanish magician said:

“After we come back from the US we have two more games and it will be a total of seven, which is more than enough to be ready for the Super Cup,” the amenable Spaniard told us. “Hopefully we can all be fit, we will have no more injuries at that moment and we can try to beat them.”

During the pre-season tour of the USA, United were based in Los Angeles for the first two weeks, training within the UCLA complex but the squad left the city dubbed the ‘City of Angels’ on Saturday afternoon for San Francisco, well the Bay Area at least, where the match against Real Madrid will be played. Mata spoke about the facilities, conditions and the people in California, suggesting that everything was perfect for the club during their stay, saying:

Yeah, it has been great. As you can see the facilities are great, the people are treating us here very, very well. We love to come here to the UCLA, which is a great university. So we are very happy with those two weeks. It was good work for us to get fit, we had good results in the games – which is not the most important thing but it helps. So we are really satisfied with our time in LA.”

United have now switched their attention to Real Madrid before heading over to the East Coast where United will face Barcelona in Washington DC, well Landover, Maryland which is not that far from the capital city of the country. The last three matches in the USA have all been victories for United and they will be aiming for two more, leaving the continent with their heads held high knowing that the preparations for the new season will have been aided by the matches played, looking ahead to two more before they face their old foes in Macedonia once again this summer. Mata concluded by stating that the results of matches are not important in pre-season, something he is right in saying:

“Winning always helps, obviously, to boost the confidence of the team and especially now in the beginning. But it doesn’t matter a lot to be fair. It is more about getting in shape and practicing in the game what we trained in the week. It has been good, we have played well in the games and now we have another two big games so we are looking forward to them.”

As long as United get through pre-season with a fully fit squad, or as fit as it can be with three players on the sidelines from the start of the summer, and earning their match fitness ahead of the new season, everything will be fine. Nobody remembers pre-season results, well Arsenal supporters might as it is the only relevancy they achieve in all honesty. United could win all eight matches, go into the new season on a high and then get beat by West Ham at home, which will show that the results in pre-season matter not. United are right to concentrate on fitness, getting their playing style perfected as when the season starts, it is those results that really matter. This is a new era for Manchester United, one whereby they will be aiming to carve their name into countless trophies once again.

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