Juan Mata has shed light on a ‘calm and confident’ Manchester United dressing room ahead of the clash with Benfica on Tuesday night.
Jose Mourinho’s men picked up criticism for languid displays against Liverpool, Benfica and Huddersfield Town but have made an important resurgence by claiming wins over Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur.
A win over the Portuguese champions – currently bottom of Group A following three straight defeats – would guarantee Man United’s place in the knockout stages.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, has noted that the dressing room is full of confidence ahead of their second Champions League clash at Old Trafford of the season.
“One week later we are back to the victories, just to validate the consistency and strength that the team is showing since the season started,” he said.
“Winning against Swansea in the Carabao Cup and Tottenham in the Premier League, in both cases with clean sheets, show what we’ve been saying on this blog every week: this team can compete.
“The two victories bring calm and confidence, and the one at Swansea also allow us to move forward in a competition where we are the defending champions.
“The next game will be against Bristol City in the quarter-finals, by mid-December, so there’s plenty of time now to focus on the other competitions.”
There were some reports suggesting in the wake of the Huddersfield defeat that the atmosphere under Mourinho was at an all time low, with a paper that may or may not be run by Rupert Murdoch describing the United canteen was “like a morgue”.
Needless to say, this was never the case. There are, of course, still aspects of United’s current approach that merit questioning – the left back situation, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a lack of midfield impetus without Paul Pogba – but the togetherness between the players is unquestionable.
From the outside, you might think a Mourinho team seems joyless and devoid of autonomy, but there are few managers out there better than the 54-year-old at cultivating a collective sense of siege mentality, and you can be sure those on the inside aren’t too fussed by any suggestions of otherwise.