Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata is dreaming of lifting the Europa League for the third time in his career. The Spaniard first won the secondary European competition with Chelsea in 2012-13 before helping United to the title in 2016-17.
United beat Ajax in the final at the Friends Arena in Stockholm courtesy of goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with Jose Mourinho at the helm to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
They were hoping to be back in the Champions League again this term, having featured in that competition last season, however, their failures in the league in 2018-19 saw them miss out on a top-four finish.
A home clash with Kazakh champions Astana is first on the agenda for United on Thursday before they go on to face AZ Alkmaar and Partizan Belgrade in Group L.
Progression to the knockout stages is regarded as the bare minimum for the Premier League side after being handed a kind draw.
But Mata has even greater ambition and wants to help the Old Trafford outfit go all the way in the competition.
Mata told United’s official website: “Whenever you win a European competition, it’s special. I hope I can win it for a third time.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got a brief taste of Europe as a manager with United last season, masterminding a victory over Paris Saint-Germain before going down to Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
Mata is a big admirer of Solskjaer’s attacking philosophy and feels that approach will make United tough to beat in Europe.
He added: “He’s trying to turn United into the side they once were: an attacking team who always look to score; a team that wins trophies. “Let’s hope that proves to be the case.”