Juan Mata says Manchester United's motivation is not denting Liverpool's Premier League title bid
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Last Updated: 23/02/19 2:49pm
Juan Mata insists the opportunity to derail Liverpool's Premier League title bid is not Manchester United's main motivation, but are instead intent on strengthening their push for Champions League qualification.
United have won eight of their nine league matches since Old Gunnar Solskjaer took caretaker charge in December, following a comprehensive 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in Jose Mourinho's last game in charge.
Solskjaer took over with the club 11 points adrift of the top four but they are now one point clear of Arsenal and Chelsea and Mata knows they must continue their good form at a crucial stage of the season.
"We see it in a different way, which is we're trying to stay in these top four positions," Mata told the club's official website.
"We got there after a very good run in the last months. Honestly, it felt quite difficult to do it, if you asked me two months ago.
"But we are there now, and we want to keep that position by winning, and obviously we'll have to play against Liverpool and Manchester City, and both are fighting for the title with Tottenham, so let's see what happens.
"But obviously what we want is to win every game and especially against the big teams."
Since I arrived in Manchester, I felt this was the big game.
Mata boasts a wealth of experience in the fixture, most noticeably scoring twice for Louis Van Gaal's side in a 2-1 victory at Anfield in 2015, and is intent on maintaining the ascendancy at Old Trafford.
"Since I arrived in Manchester, I felt this was the big game," the United midfielder added.
"Liverpool-United, United-Liverpool - everyone is waiting for those derbies, and you can feel it in the build-up to the game. During the week, everyone is speaking about it, everyone is thinking about it. We will try to make it very special.
"Obviously when you win and you're in a good run of results, everyone is happier. It gives you more confidence to play even better.
"That's what we're living right now, and that's what we want to keep until the end of the season - this positive momentum."
Liverpool have lost just one Premier League match all season - against fellow title rivals Manchester City in January - and Mata is counting on a fervent atmosphere to help spur them on against their bitter rivals.
"We want to have not only 11, but 75,000 playing and trying to score on Sunday, and I'm sure they will help us," he said.
"I'm sure they will push us for the win and I have to say that the atmosphere at Old Trafford in the last few weeks has been incredible.
"They're happy. They come and they're getting results. The fans are going back home happy, and that's the most important thing for us, so hopefully on Sunday it can be the same."