Europa League the priority for United's Mata as EFL Cup final looms

Passage to the tournament’s last 16 must be confirmed before the Red Devils consider their upcoming cup final clash

Juan Mata has urged his Manchester United team-mates to retain their focus as they prepare to follow a Europa League trip to Saint-Etienne with the EFL Cup final against Southampton.

Jose Mourinho’s side are still fighting on four fronts, having advanced their claim for a top-four spot with a 16-game unbeaten run in the Premier League and overcome Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round at the weekend.

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Sunday’s EFL Cup showdown with the Saints at Wembley will provide the Portuguese boss with a chance to add to the silverware collected in the season-opening Community Shield win over Leicester City.

HD Juan Mata Manchester United

First, though, United visit the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard for the second leg of their Europa League round-of-32 tie, holding a commanding 3-0 aggregate lead.

And Mata knows there is a risk the team could struggle to concentrate on the task at hand.

“I won’t lie to you, this week we are all very excited about the first final of the season,” the Spain international wrote in a blog post on the United website.

“I’m talking about the EFL Cup final that we will play next Sunday at Wembley against Southampton. In our last two visits to this special stadium, we won two titles [FA Cup and Community Shield].

“But it’s also true that the next game is always the most important one, we know that, and in our case we have to remain focused on Saint-Etienne and the Europa League. 

HD Henrikh Mkhitaryan Manchester United

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“We did a great job last week with the 3-0 win, but they proved to be a better team than what the score might say. It would be a big mistake for us to take things for granted. When you take things seriously and fight in all competitions, you need to multiply your efforts, be smart and avoid getting distracted. 

“The team is showing that and we want to keep [going] the same way. We are entering the decisive part of the season and we are still fighting to win some of the trophies.

“As you become a more experienced player, you realise that you must think about the next game only, otherwise it would be a mistake. We’re sure of that.”

United beat Blackburn 2-1 at Ewood Park on Sunday to book a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and were promptly handed a tough tie away to Chelsea next month. 

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The Red Devils will have a score to settle after being hammered 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in October.

“Needless to say, it’s going to be another special game for me,” Mata, who spent two and a half successful seasons at Chelsea before moving to Old Trafford in January 2014, wrote.

“This is, without a doubt, one of the most complicated ties we could have, but we will go there with the big motivation of earning a ticket to Wembley and forget the bad taste of our last visit to Stamford Bridge.”

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