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Tuesday 21 February 2017

Mata eyes United winning streak

Juan Mata insists Manchester United can end the year on a high note with two wins at home to Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Pic: PA
Juan Mata insists Manchester United can end the year on a high note with two wins at home to Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Pic: PA

Juan Mata is looking for Manchester United to build up their longest winning run since early winter 2014.

The Reds recorded their fourth victory on the bounce in all competitions on Saturday when they beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at the Hawthorns.

If they can account for Sunderland on St Stephen's Day and Middlesbrough on New Year's Eve - both at Old Trafford - Jose Mourinho's side will equal their best run since Louis van Gaal's Reds went on a six-game winning run in from November to mid-December two years ago.

"Our win against WBA on Saturday, the fourth victory in a row, gives us plenty of optimism and good feelings with a view to the last two weeks of the year," said United's Spanish midfielder.

"We are reinforcing something that I've been claiming since the start of the season - that the team has got potential and good football, and I'm sure we will keep showing that in 2017.

"Before the end of the year we have two more games in Old Trafford where we will try to continue with the positive results.

"In the last two away fixtures we had tough games against Crystal Palace and West Brom, and we didn't have much time to rest in between, but we were able to win both of them with a mix of talent, effort, and being united.

"That should be our mentality when we play against Sunderland and Middlesbrough, to try to approach the teams ahead of us on the table before the end of the year.

Thrilling

"We haven't yet reached the half of the season and we want to extend this good run of results for as long as we can. Everything can happen in the Premier League. This competition is well-known for being very thrilling until the end, and there's still a long way to get there."

Meanwhile, United are set to make a £38 million bid for Benfica defender Victor Lindelof, who comes highly recommended by fellow Swede and United marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Mourinho will be without Eric Bailly for at least four games in the new year due to his Africa Cup of Nations commitments with the Ivory Coast.

And, despite the recent form of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, United are putting the finishing touches to a bid for Lindelof after tracking the 22-year-old for a number of months.

The Swede reportedly has a £30m buy-out clause in his contract but that does not come into effect until next summer.

For United's next pre-season schedule next summer, the club are planning to head to the United States following this year's shambolic pre-season trip to China.

Plans are being finalised for Mourinho's men to head across the Atlantic for pre-season, as they did in both 2014 and 2015.

United officials went on a reconnaissance trip last week as plans begin to get firmed up, heading to Los Angeles - a favourite pre-season destination of Mourinho - and checking out UCLA.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said immediately after the cancellation that he was sure United would return to China, but next year's pre-season tour in the USA is likely to be far more palatable for Mourinho.

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