Juan Mata doesn’t have the same role with Manchester United that he used to, but the Spaniard is still one of the team’s veteran leaders. The former Chelsea man is further down the depth chart these days, but he’s still among the most reliable sound bites when it comes to assessing the current state of the team.
He says the Red Devils are feeling fatigue after putting in an extra work load on a very warm night in Germany on Monday. United needed extra time to best FC Copenhagen 1-0.
“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said after the long, grueling match.
“At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.
“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”
United eventually beat Copenhagen goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson, who made 13 saves in the match. Now they’ll meet Sevilla in the semifinals, where they will take on another goalie with the capacity to stand on his head in a match- Yassine Bounou.
The Sevilla keeper recorded a clean sheet against Wolverhampton Wanderers, saving a penalty shot from Raul Jimenez, one of England’s most up-and-coming young scorers.
“I’ve been practicing saving penalties. I know Raul from our time together at Atletico Madrid so I knew a little bit how he tends to take them,” Bounou said of the game defining shot by his former teammate.
“But you always need luck, too.”
For Juan Mata and United there is at least one, if not two matches left on the 2019-20 season.
It’s a campaign that’s been long and strange, due to the coronavirus shutdown, and a term that saw United stay alive deep into every competition of which they were a part.
United reached the semis in three cup competitions, EFL, FA and Europa. Having been ousted in the semifinal round of the previous two tourneys, we’ll see if the third time is the charm here.
UEFA Europa League Semifinal FYIs
Kickoff: Sunday Aug 16, 8pm, RheinEnergie Stadion, Cologne, Germany
TV, Stream: BT Sport, BT Sport Extra
Odds to win UEL United +190 Sevilla +280
Match Preview, Team News, Starting XI Predictions: coming soon
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TV, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Now and SB Nation.