There will need to be a massive improvement in Manchester United's league form from now until the end of the season if Mata is to be proved right.
Despite the situation Manchester United find themselves in right now, there does seem to be one player who is optimistic of salvaging something from their season in Juan Mata.
Mata still believes that the reigning champions can achieve Champions League qualification via the Premier League. United currently sit 11 points off the pace in the race for fourth place – which is currently occupied by Liverpool – with 12 games remaining.
It seems a difficult ask as some would say for Liverpool to finish below United now would require quite a remarkable implosion. Then there is the other factor of the sides in between fourth place and United, with Tottenham Hotspur and Everton also vying to be in Europe’s premier club competition next season.
United can only control their own destiny, so how many points can and should they pick up between now and the end of the season?
36 points remain on offer, meaning United can finish the season on a maximum of 78 points. Liverpool are averaging above two points a game at the moment – which means they should finish with 76 at the very least. Is it feasible to think David Moyes will somehow manage to guide his side to the end of the season with a maximum of two points dropped? Or more specifically 11 wins and a draw?
Unfortunately for them they have not looked like stringing such good form together for the duration of the campaign.
There are two eye-catching home games for United to face, Liverpool and Manchester City. If they are to have any chance and at the very least maintain that 11 point gap to Liverpool, the former is a fixture they simply must win.
Also on their fixture list is a difficult trip to Everton - which looks as though it could be another must-win - and although they lost to Newcastle earlier on in the season on their own patch they will probably be thinking they should win at St James’ Park given their slide in form in recent weeks.
In United's next couple of away games they should be favourites, given that both Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion are in a relegation scrap. However, Palace have seen an upturn in fortune under Tony Pulis, and West Brom have taken points off Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea on their own patch this season, while another opponent, West Ham United, seem to have found their form in recent weeks.
Other games they have include home matches against Aston Villa, Norwich City, Hull City and Sunderland, before they finish the season with a tricky trip to Southampton on the final day.
On the face of it, they all seem winnable games – but if you look at the amount of winnable games in which United have squandered points this season, maybe Mata’s claims are too optimistic.
image: © eirikref