Juan Mata challenges Manchester United to win Europa League
By Nick Lustig
Last Updated: 15/02/16 6:08pm
Juan Mata has challenged Manchester United to rescue their faltering season by winning the Europa League.
United missed the opportunity to close the gap on the Premier League's top four on Saturday when they lost 2-1 at relegation-threatened Sunderland.
The defeat left United six points behind Manchester City in the fourth and final Champions League spot with just 12 matches of the season remaining.
Following the loss at the Stadium of Light, Louis van Gaal admitted United's best chance of qualifying for the Champions League is via the Europa League and Mata has echoed his manager's assessment.
"I understand this is not the best possible situation," Mata wrote in his blog ahead of Thursday's last-32 match against Danish champions Midtjylland.
"But it is what it is, and our goal is to keep advancing so we can have the chance to lift this trophy, which would come with a double reward.
"My personal experience tells me that if we work for it with excitement it could be a positive way to finish the season, as I lived three seasons ago [with Chelsea].
"At the moment we face Midtjylland, the current champions of Denmark, now third in their league. Step by step."
After suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton on January 23, United enjoyed a three-match unbeaten run, which included victories over Derby County and Stoke City as well as a draw with Chelsea.
Mata also admitted his frustration at United's failure to maintain their recent resurgence.
"After three games improving our level, with positive results, last Saturday we lost in Sunderland," the 27-year-old added.
"The team was performing well in the previous weeks and it hurts not to have the consistency that you need to shorten the gap with the teams standing ahead of us in the table. Even more this weekend when they were facing each other.
"It's a message that we have repeated before this season, but the truth is that the only way to get to a better position is by working hard for the next game. There is no other way.
"Mourning is useless now, besides, there are still many games to play and many things can happen this season."