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10th Mar 2018

Jose Mourinho explains decision to pick Juan Mata for Liverpool game

"We want to win the game!"

Darragh Murphy

Few expected Jose Mourinho to go with that team.

While Mourinho’s hand was somewhat forced due to the late injury picked up by Paul Pogba in training on Friday, supporters remain surprised by the attacking nature of his starting XI for Saturday’s visit of Liverpool.

Pogba has been left out of the matchday squad entirely while Mourinho has also dropped Jesse Lingard to the bench, bringing in both Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata.

While Mata possesses more composure than Lingard, the Spaniard’s lack of pace resulted in some concern from fans who felt that the energetic attack of Liverpool might exploit Mata’s weakness.

“I trust his experience,” Mourinho told Sky Sports when asked why he went for Mata over Lingard.

“I think his capacity to move into areas where he can connect our game, because he’s very intelligent, and Liverpool are a very strong team in fast counter-attacking transition so the more times we lose the ball, the more chances they have with that transition.

“If we are more consistent and we have some criteria in our possession, we’ll try to reduce the possibility of their super-dangerous counter-attack. So let’s see if Mata can help us.”

In much of the build-up, pundits and players speculated over whether Mourinho would park the bus and settle for a point due to the fact that United are ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League table at the time of writing.

But he can’t be accused of setting his team out defensively and, prior to kick-off, the Red Devils boss was adamant that he was going to try to claim all three points.

He said: “The objective is to be in front of them at the end of the season, not today, because there are still seven or eight matches to go so more than 20 points to discuss.

“We want to win the game!”